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1989 College Basketball Season – Interim Heaven

November 14, 2014

alonzo-mourning-1989-nike-air-force-iii

With highly touted freshman Alonzo Mourning coming on, Georgetown was ranked #2 in the pre-season poll *photo courtesy of bbs.hupu.com

The top 11 teams in the rankings going into the 1989 season will be discussed at some point in this post.  In order, they are Duke, Georgetown, Michigan, Louisville, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Iowa, Syracuse, Illinois, UNLV, and Arizona.

But there was a once powerful program that started the season under a cloud.  The University of Kentucky was being investigated because of the eligibility of Eric Manuel for the 1988 season.  Manuel sat out for 1989 as the NCAA investigation progressed.  It turned out that one of the Wildcats’ prized recruits would also come under a cloud.

With that, Kentucky traveled to the Great Alaska Shootout after being demolished by top-seeded Duke in their opening game.  The Wildcats beat Iona in the 1st round.  They would now play a senior-laden Big East team that was looking to make some noise.

November 26, 1988 – Great Alaska Shootout Semifinal: Kentucky Wildcats 60, Seton Hall Pirates 63

For years, Seton Hall had been the bottom-feeders of the Big East and of Eastern basketball.  But in 1988, with coach P.J. Carlesimo and senior Mark Bryant leading the way, they made their first ever NCAA tournament appearance as an 8-seed in the West Regional.  They beat UTEP before getting plastered by top-seeded Arizona in round 2.  But even with Bryant leaving, there was still some talent.

There was senior guards John Morton and Gerald Greene.  There was senior forward Daryll Walker and Puerto Rican senior center Ramon Ramos.  There was also a new player from Australia, who had played for their national team in the 1984 and ’88 Olympics.  Andrew Gaze was on for a season at Seton Hall as a 23-year-old.  He was listed as a junior but was under some NCAA eligibility investigation after playing professionally.  He would play out the whole year but not return in 1990.

Off the bench, Seton Hall had 5’5″ Pookie Wigington, along with forwards Frantz Volcy and Michael Cooper, shooter Nick Katsikis, and future star Anthony Avent.

Kentucky’s stars were freshman Chris Mills and sophomore big man LeRon Ellis.  There was also coach Eddie Sutton’s son, Sean, running the point and sophomore Reggie Hanson at the wing.  Senior big man Mike Scott started this game before eventually giving way to the bench.  Senior shooter Derrick Miller was the first guard off the bench but Kentucky also had three of the 4 “unforgettables” that would become famous in Kentucky lore.  Richie Farmer didn’t play in this game but John Pelphrey and Deron Feldhaus did.

Seton Hall was a fast-paced, pressure defense team.  But Kentucky controlled the tempo early on and slowed the game down to the point where the final score was 63-60.  Chris Mills picked up 2 quick fouls and got off to a slow shooting start.  But Eddie Sutton kept him in the game and Mills got hot enough to score 10 of Kentucky’s first 20 points, including 6 in a row to tie the game at 20.

Ellis then got two baskets as Kentucky finished their 10-0 run with a 24-20 lead.  Ellis finished the half with 14 points while Mills stayed at 10.  Seton Hall came back thanks to free throws, but took a 33-32 lead on a Nick Katsikis three from the top.  Then in the final seconds of the half, point guard Gerald Greene took the ball the length of the court and hit a pull-up with 1 second to go while Mills hacked him on the wrist for his 3rd foul.  The three-point play put the Pirates up 36-32 at the half.

Foul trouble hit two key players at the start of the 2nd half.  Kentucky’s Reggie Hanson and Seton Hall’s Ramon Ramos, who would have extensive brain damage after being involved in an auto-accident while playing for the Portland Blazers in December, 1989 (he would eventually have to re-learn to walk and talk), each picked up their 4th fouls.

But a big player who was scoreless in the first half started to come alive.  Daryll Walker started hitting the offensive boards and getting to the line.  He almost single-handedly kept Seton Hall ahead despite the exploits of Mills, Ellis and Sean Sutton.  The Pirates went on a 6-0 run to take a 55-49 lead before Kentucky called a timeout.

The run went to 8-0 when Gaze tipped in a miss but Kentucky responded with a 6-0 spurt to cut the lead to 57-55.  Walker then got his 10th and 11th 2nd half points from the foul line before Mills’ turnaround from the post cut it back to two.  Mills had a chance to tie it after a Hanson steal, but he missed a second free throw and Hanson got his 5th foul going after the rebound.

Mills then had a chance to give Kentucky the lead after Walker missed the front end of a 1-and-1.  But Gerald Greene, who would become one of the best defenders in the Big East that season, stayed with Mills 1-on-1 and forced a missed turnaround jumper in the lane.  Walker then put back a Morton miss to give Seton Hall a 61-58 lead with under a minute to go.

Ramos fouled out with 31 seconds left but LeRon Ellis, who’s father, LeRoy, played several years in the NBA, missed the front end of a 1-and-1.  Pelphrey rebounded and was fouled.  He made both shots to cut it to 61-60.  The Pirates worked the ball around until Sutton fouled Greene with 17 seconds to go.  Gerald made both and Kentucky got a timeout with 12 seconds left.

The Wildcats could not find Mills for a game-tying three-point attempt.  So Deron Feldhaus was forced to fire from the top and missed off the front rim.

Seton Hall would go on to defeat another probation-laden team, national champion Kansas, in the Great Alaska Shootout final, 92-81.  The Pirates would start the season at 14-0, including a win over Georgetown at the beginning of January.  But the Pirates would go 0-3 against Syracuse, including a loss in the Big East tournament semifinals, and 0-2 against Pitt in 1989.  Those, along with a loss at Georgetown, would be all of Seton Hall’s 6 losses going into the NCAA tournament as a #3 seed in the West with a 26-6 record.

It all came down for Kentucky at the end of the 1989 season.  Athletic Director and former All-American Cliff Hagan resigned in November, 1988.  Eddie Sutton would resign in March after a 13-19 season and 6th place finish in the SEC.  Then in May, the NCAA gave Kentucky a three-year probation for academic and recruiting violations.  The Wildcats would be barred from the NCAA tournament in 1990 and 1991 and from National Television in 1990.  Why?

Well, first Eric Manuel was ruled to have should of been ineligible for the 1988 season after cheating on the ACTs.  He was barred from any NCAA institution and eventually led Oklahoma City University to back-to-back NAIA championships.  But the recruiting violation allegedly happened in April, 1988 when Kentucky was recruiting Chris Mills.  Assistant Coach, and a member of the 1978 National Championship team, Dwane Casey (who would later coach the Toronto Raptors) had allegedly sent cash to Mills’ father in an air-express package that was opened in Los Angeles, Mills’ home.

Mills would eventually transfer to Arizona and play in 1991.  Sean Sutton followed his father to Oklahoma State for 1991.  LeRon Ellis transferred to Syracuse and was allowed to play for the 1990 Orangemen.

Kentucky had just avoided the death penalty, which killed football at SMU.  Remarkably, by the time the probation ended and Pelphrey, Feldhaus, and Farmer were seniors (along with fourth “unforgettable” Sean Woods), Kentucky would just about be back on the map.

Kentucky starters (points scored)

Reggie Hanson (5) – Small Forward

LeRon Ellis (20) – Power Forward

Mike Scott (6) – Center

Sean Sutton (4) – Point Guard

Chris Mills (21) – Shooting Guard

Kentucky bench (points scored)

John Pelphrey (2)

Derrick Miller (2)

Deron Feldhaus (0)

Kentucky Coach: Eddie Sutton

Seton Hall starters (points scored)

Andrew Gaze (6) – Small Forward

Daryll Walker (13) – Power Forward

Ramon Ramos (8) – Center

Gerald Greene (12) – Point Guard

John Morton (11) – Shooting Guard

Seton Hall bench (points scored)

Anthony Avent (0)

Michael Cooper (2)

Frantz Volcy (6)

Nick Katsikis (3)

Pookie Wigington (2)

Seton Hall Coach: P.J. Carlesimo

KYs-Shame

photo courtesy of Wildcat Blue Nation

January 5, 1989 – (#8)Arizona Wildcats 78 @Stanford Cardinal 83

After their greatest basketball season ever, far and away, the Arizona Wildcats began the 1989 season at 8-1.  Their only loss was to North Carolina in Charlotte in their second game of the season.  Lute Olsen’s Wildcats had lost Steve Kerr, Tom Tolbert and Craig McMillan from their 1988 starting lineup, but their two best scorers were back.  Forwards Sean Elliott and Anthony Cook were seniors, along with future major leaguer Kenny Lofton.  Swingmen Jud Buechler and Harvey Mason were juniors.  Freshman big man Sean Rooks came off the bench, along with sophomore Lawrence Muehlebach.  That was Olsen’s rotation early on until Matt Othick got some playing time as well.

But something Arizona hadn’t done since Olsen’s first year in 1984 was beating Stanford in Palo Alto.  Stanford had not made the NCAA tournament since winning the 1942 National Championship.  But coach Mike Montgomery was starting to build a winner in his 3rd season and had a senior laden lineup.  The star was guard Todd Lichti.  But there was point man Terry Taylor, big men Howard Wright and Eric Reveno, and reserves Brian McSweeney and Scott Meinert.  They were all seniors.  The only under-classmen that got any time was sophomore starting forward Andrew Vlahov and freshman center Adam Keefe.

Stanford started the season ranked #20 but lost two of their first three games, at Indiana and North Carolina.  But they won 7 of their next 8 games to bring some momentum into their matchup with Arizona.

But it was the Wildcats that started the game with the momentum.  Cook got the first 6 points to give Arizona a 6-4 lead.  Then Elliott hit two free throws.  He then hit a three after Howard Wright and Anthony Cook exchanged blocks on a fast-paced sequence.  Then after a strip by Buechler, Elliott hit a pull-up three in transition to put Arizona ahead 14-4.  Stanford waited until the media timeout and by the time the game got there, Arizona was ahead 16-4.

But the run continued as Rooks hit a jumper in the lane and Lofton hit a three after Elliott penetrated.  It was now 21-4 Arizona and with 11:58 left, Stanford called a timeout.  The Cardinal slowly chipped back into the game as everyone except Elliott went cold for Arizona.  Elliott finished with 21 first half points but Stanford got back into it with balance.  When Keefe found Howard Wright with an alley-oop, the Wildcats lead was cut to 40-34.

But Wright also had 5 turnovers to go with his offensive production and Rooks scored the final 4 points of the half to put Arizona up 44-34.  The freshman, Rooks, had contributed 9 points off the bench in the 1st half.

Stanford had, in fact, shot pretty well in the 1st half but was plagued by turnovers against the Arizona pressure defense.  In the 2nd half, they cut down the turnovers and stayed hot from the field.  They hit their first 7 shots, which included Lichti getting going, and eventually took a 52-51 lead when Reveno recovered an errant alley-oop and scored.  By this time, Lichti had half of his 16 points in the 2nd stanza.

But then Reveno picked up his 4th foul and Elliott held off the Cardinal for the next few minutes.  But Stanford tied it at 60 when Taylor hit Wright for a double-pump in the lane.  Then after an Arizona miss, Lichti took it the length of the floor against three guys, scored, and was fouled.  The Cardinal now had a 63-60 lead.  Lichti scored Stanford’s next 8 points after that to put the Cardinal up 71-62.  The game had seen a 26-point turnaround.

Lichti didn’t get on the board again until 2:31 was left and he hit two free throws for a 76-68 Stanford lead.  After each team exchanged turnovers, Elliott hit Buechler for a corner jumper and Arizona started taking their timeouts with 1:44 to go.  Then they started fouling as Lofton fouled Lichti.  Todd would finish the season shooting 131-for-151 from the line and he made both here.

Elliott then penetrated and found Rooks for a slam and Arizona used their least timeout, down 78-72 with 1:27 left.  Following the break, Vlahov missed the front end of a 1-and-1 but Elliott missed at the other end.  Rooks, however, got the rebound and drew Howard Wright’s 5th foul.  Rooks missed both free throws but Harvey Mason followed up the second miss and scored.  Lichti then made two free throws again for an 80-74 Stanford lead.

Rooks again rebounded an Arizona miss and was fouled with 56 seconds to go.  This time he made both free throws.  Terry Taylor was then fouled and missed the front end of a 1-and-1.  Elliott came down and missed a three but there was a tie-up with 46 seconds to go and Arizona had the possession arrow.  Elliott then made a running jumper with 40 seconds to go to cut Stanford’s lead to 80-78.

Stanford then moved the ball around as Arizona tried and failed to foul until Cook committed his 5th on Vlahov with 19 seconds to go.  Although Lute Olsen lost Cook, the foul paid off as Vlahov missed the front end of the 1-and-1.  Arizona tried to go to Elliott but he was double-teamed.  He kicked it to Mason, who drove and drew a blocking foul on Reveno with 4 seconds left.  This was Reveno’s 5th foul.

Mason, the junior who was getting playing time for the first time in his career, was in-and-out on the first free throw.  So he had to intentionally miss the second but he didn’t know he had to hit the rim.  He got nothing but backboard and the ball was awarded to Stanford.  Then Mason committed an intentional foul before the ball was inbounded.

After Brian McSweeney missed the first free throw, the second one rolled around the rim about 83905641936-168946289 times before settling in.  Stanford then got the ball back and McSweeney clinched it with two more free throws.

Stanford had now legitimized their 9-3 start by beating a ranked opponent, and for the 5th straight year they had beaten Arizona at Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto.  The streak ended the next season when Arizona beat them by 19.  But the Cardinal would make their first NCAA tournament in 47 years.

Arizona starters (points scored)

Jud Buechler (4) – Small Forward

Sean Elliott (35) – Power Forward

Anthony Cook (12) – Center

Kenny Lofton (5) – Point Guard

Harvey Mason (4) – Shooting Guard

Arizona bench (points scored)

Sean Rooks (18)

Matt Muehlebach (0)

Arizona Coach: Lute Olson

Stanford starters (points scored)

Andrew Vlahov (5) – Small Forward

Howard Wright (11) – Power Forward

Eric Reveno (8) – Center

Terry Taylor (5) – Point Guard

Todd Lichti (35) – Shooting Guard

Stanford bench (points scored)

Brian McSweeney (7)

Scott Meinert (2)

Adam Keefe (10)

Derek Bruton (0)

Stanford Coach: Mike Montgomery

1988: Todd Lichti

Todd Lichti was a 2nd-team All-American in 1989 and led Stanford to a big victory over Arizona with 35 points *photo courtesy of Stanford Scout

January 18, 1989 – (#3)Georgetown Hoyas 80 @Providence Friars 77

Georgetown had started the year as expected, coming into this game at 12-1.  Their only loss was to the new kids on the block, the Seton Hall Pirates.  Speaking of new kids on the block, there were a few new Hoyas who basketball fans would see and hear from many times in the next 20 years.  Freshman Alonzo Mourning and sophomore Dikembe Mutombo joined the squad that was led by seniors Jaren Jackson and Charles Smith.

Smith was a speedy point guard who had made the 1988 Olympic team coached by John Thompson.  Jackson would develop into a deadly shooter in the NBA.  The rest of the roster filled out with guards Dwayne Bryant, Mark Tillmon, and Bobby Winston as well as forwards John Turner, Milton Bell, Johnathan Edwards and Sam Jefferson.  The most interesting news for the Hoyas at this time was their coach John Thompson.

This game against Providence would be the second consecutive that Thompson boycotted to protest the recently passed Proposition 42 by the NCAA.  Thompson’s move proved to work as the NCAA reconvened two weeks after approving it to reconsider.  The rule would be rescinded in 1990.  But meanwhile, assistants Craig Escherick and Mike Riley ran the team from the sidelines.

Providence, after an 11-17 season in 1988, was reborn under first year coach Rick Barnes.  Barnes’ first major gig was with George Mason in 1987-88, he has not had a year off of coaching since.  The Friars started the 1989 season at 13-0 before losing at home to Villanova 4 days before hosting Georgetown.  Marty Conlon was back in the middle along with guards Carlton Screen and Eric Murdock to lead the way.

Other key contributors were forwards Matt Palazzi and Cal Foster, and reserves Abdul Shamsid-Deen, Chris Watts, Darryl Wright and Marvin Saddler.  The Friars were a running and pressing team, like Georgetown.

Georgetown got several layup chances early on but couldn’t convert on any.  Providence got a charge from their crowd and Conlon put back a Foster miss for the first two points.  Then Screen found Murdock for a corner three.  Murdock later got a breakaway layup to give Providence a 9-1 lead.  Georgetown was breaking their press but couldn’t hit anything.

Finally, John Turner (who would leave Georgetown after the season mainly because of academic problems and his continued association with a drug dealer) scored a breakaway layup for the Hoyas’ first field goal in 10 attempts.  But Conlon hit a three and then another jumper, and after Murdock’s pull-up in transition, the Friars led 17-5.

The lead grew to as big as 13 when Palazzi nailed a three.  But Georgetown was able to hang around thanks mostly to Charles Smith.  Smith would score just under half of Georgetown’s points in the 1st half while Mourning struggled.  A corner three from Charles with 4 seconds to go gave him 18 points and cut Providence’s lead to 48-37 at the break.

Mourning started strong in the 2nd half with a slam and a block.  But Georgetown couldn’t sustain anything and Providence kept their lead.  Charles Smith scored 6 points in a row but when Screen got a steal and fed Murdock for a breakaway, the Friars led 61-51.  But finally, about halfway through the 2nd half, Georgetown’s defense stepped up and they got back into the game.

Jaren Jackson hit back-to-back jumpers.  Then after Screen committed his 4th foul on a charge, Mourning got a slam.  Then Alonzo blocked a Shamsid-Deen shot at the other end and Smith hit a pull-up from the elbow to force a Providence timeout with 9:09 to go.  It didn’t halt Georgetown from tying the game though as Dwayne Bryant drove the lane to square the game at 61.

Providence finally got three shots before senior Darryl Wright put one back in and drew Jackson’s 4th foul.  But Smith hit a corner jumper and Bobby Winston got a steal in the back court and hit a pull-up in the lane for Georgetown’s first lead.  A three from Smith put Georgetown ahead 70-66.

But the Friars press got going late in the game and a Murdock knockaway and Conlon subsequent layup put Providence up 73-71.  Then Screen got a steal from Jackson at half court, Jaren reached back and fouled Carlton with 2:13 to go.  Jackson fouled out and Screen hit two free throws for a 75-71 lead.  Then with under 2:00 to go, Murdock hit a banker on the break while Bryant fouled him.  The three-point play could have put Providence up 78-71 but Murdock missed the free throw and the Friars lead was six.

Mourning then kicked out to Bryant for a corner three to cut the Friars advantage to 77-74.  Then Bryant got a knockaway and saved the ball to half court at the other end.  Smith then out-raced two Friars and saved the ball to Bobby Winston.  Winston hit and was fouled with 45 seconds to go.  But with a chance to tie it, Bobby missed the free throw.  Providence still led 77-76.

Murdock rebounded the miss but Smith eventually got a steal as Murdock tried to pass out of a trap.  Georgetown then called a timeout with 26 seconds to go.  They ran the clock down and found Smith on the baseline.  Charles already had 31 points as he drove and nailed a runner while even with the backboard.  Providence called a timeout with 5 seconds left to try and set up a winner.

They got the ball to halfcourt and called their last timeout while wasting 4 seconds, so there was one second on the clock.  Murdock then inbounded (I would think he would be your go-to guy) and couldn’t find anybody.  So he called a timeout.  A technical was called on Providence and Smith hit two more free throws.  Georgetown then inbounded the ball successfully and ran out the 1 second.

Providence would begin a tailspin with their two home losses to Villanova and Georgetown.  But it didn’t fully manifest until their 5-game losing streak (including a two-point loss at Georgetown) in February.  The Friars dropped to 7-9 in the Big East, which was tied for 5th but Providence would finish 6th.  They lost to Syracuse in the Big East Quarterfinals, 79-76, and were one of the last teams invited to the NCAA tournament as a 12-seed in the Southeast Regional.  They lost to 5th-seeded Virginia in a high-scoring 100-97 1st round game.

Georgetown starters (points scored)

Jaren Jackson (10) – Small Forward

John Turner (6) – Power Forward

Alonzo Mourning (9) – Center

Charles Smith (35) – Point Guard

Dwayne Bryant (7) – Shooting Guard

Georgetown bench (points scored)

Mark Tillmon (5)

Milton Bell (2)

Bobby Winston (6)

Dikembe Mutombo (0)

Johnathan Edwards (0)

Sam Jefferson (0)

Georgetown Coaches: Assistants Craig Escherick and Mike Riley

Providence starters (points scored)

Matt Palazzi (8) – Small Forward

Cal Foster (2) – Power Forward

Marty Conlon (13) – Center

Carlton Screen (14) – Point Guard

Eric Murdock (22) – Shooting Guard

Providence bench (points scored)

Abdul Shamsid-Deen (13)

Darryl Wright (3)

Marvin Saddler (2)

Chris Watts (0)

Providence Coach: Rick Barnes

charles smith

Charles Smith had a career-high of 35 points against Providence in 1989 *photo courtesy of Amazon

January 22, 1989 – (#10)UNLV Runnin’ Rebels 74 @(#4)Louisville Cardinals 92

After a Final Four appearance in 1987, Jerry Tarkanian and the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels followed that up with a 28-6 season and 2nd round loss in 1988.  But by 1989, the key players from the 1987 team were gone.  In their place stepped in a new batch of junior college transfers.

Forward Stacey Augmon and guard Anderson Hunt were the only main players who were on campus as freshmen.  Augmon was a sophomore in 1989 after making the ’88 Olympic team.  Hunt was a freshman and reserve for the first part of the 1989 season, including this game.  Point guard Greg Anthony was an underclassmen as well, as he had transferred from Portland after his freshman year.

But the JC transfers that filled the roster was top center David Butler, fellow big man George Ackles, senior guard Clint Rossum, and reserves Moses Scurry, James Jones and Barry Young.  All of these guys, save for Rossum and Ackles (who would be red-shirted) would be back in 1990 to join another top JC player in Larry Johnson.

As for 1989, UNLV started 13-2 and were on an 11-game winning streak.  Of those wins during the streak, only back-to-back games at Fresno State and against Cal State Fullerton ended with margins below double digits.

Louisville was on their own 12-game winning streak after starting the season at 0-2.  Denny Crum had a strong team as per usual.  The top of that strong team was senior center and 1989 #1 draft pick Pervis Ellison.  Ellison was flanked by senior forward Kenny Payne and junior (coming off a red-shirt season) Tony Kimbro, as well as sophomore guard LaBradford Smith and junior Keith Williams.  Off the bench was junior Felton Spencer and a trio of freshmen James Brewer, Cornelius Holden, and Everick Sullivan.  Sullivan was out for this game.

Louisville started cold but for the first few minutes, UNLV’s only answer was a David Butler turnaround in the lane.  Ackles committed two quick fouls, stayed in the game, and picked up a 3rd not too long after.  Finally, Greg Anthony got the bounce on a three to put the Rebels up 5-0.  A baseline pull-up from Keith Williams and a corner three from Payne tied the game before Rossum hit a three and Anthony hit a pull-up from the baseline.  UNLV led 10-5.

Ellison then got going by scoring 8 of Louisville’s next 11 points to put the Cardinals up 16-13.  It started to fall apart for UNLV when Anthony sprained his ankle.  Greg tried to return in the 1st half but couldn’t get anything going and didn’t play in the 2nd half.

Felton Spencer was a factor off the bench as he hit six free throws to put Louisville ahead 25-17.  Then Williams got a steal and slam, Ellison hit a turnaround in the lane, and LaBradford Smith hit back-to-back threes.  It was now 35-17 Louisville but more impressive was their defense in holding down the high scoring Rebels.

Louisville kept that lead and ended the 1st half with a dagger.  After a UNLV turnover with 2 seconds left, reserve Craig Hawley inbounded to Payne at the wing.  Kenny caught the ball above his head, didn’t bring it down, and nailed a long three from the left wing to put Louisville up 46-24 at the break.

Although Augmon and Ackles got their first field goals to start the 2nd half, things didn’t start much better for the Runnin’ Rebels.  Ellison got two three-point plays as he hit his first 7 field goals of the game.  The latest three-point play was followed by Williams stealing the ball from Hunt (who was thrust into the point guard role after Anthony was out) in the back court and hitting a banker for a 59-36 Louisville lead, their biggest of the game.

But then Augmon hit two free throws and Rossum hit a three in transition after a Hunt push.  Hunt hit another three after Spencer hit two free throws.  Then Augmon twice followed up a miss, scored, and was fouled.  Stacey’s three-point play cut the lead to 61-47.  Then after Rossum hit another three, Louisville had to use a timeout.  Smith halted the charge briefly with a three but Augmon answered with a trey and then got a basket on a Spencer goaltending.  The Louisville lead was down to 64-55.

UNLV kept charging and with 8:21 to go, an Augmon pull-up in the lane cut the Cardinals’ lead to 66-61.  But after Ellison hit a turnaround from the post, UNLV reserve guard Stacey Cvijanovich turned the ball over.  Then Ackles committed his 4th foul and Ellison hit two more free throws.

But the game was put away when, with the score 71-63 Louisville, Tarkanian got called for a technical for being out of the coaching box after a foul against his team.  Smith hit the two technical free throws, Kimbro split a pair of free throws (he was the player originally fouled) and then Payne hit a three.  That was six points without UNLV seeing the ball.

Ackles eventually fouled out and Louisville officially added an exclamation point when Ellison got a reverse slam on the break.  Ellison tied his career-high with 28 points in this game and made a great case for being the #1 pick.

This was Louisville’s 13th straight win.  The streak reached 14 before the Cardinals dropped a home game against Ohio State.  This started a mini-tailspin as Louisville dropped 6 of their final 12 games of the regular season and finished 2nd in the Metro.  They did, however, win their conference tournament by beating top-seeded Florida State in the final.

This earned the Cardinals a #4 seed in the Midwest Regional.  They knocked out the state of Arkansas in the 1st 2 rounds by defeating Arkansas-Little Rock in round 1 and the Arkansas Razorbacks (who would be in the 1990 Final Four) in round 2.  But Louisville was dropped by top-seeded Illinois in the Sweet 16.

UNLV would drop 3 of their next 5 games before getting it together and winning 8 of their final 9 games of the regular season and win the Big West conference tournament.  They were a #4 seed in the West Regional and, after defeating Idaho and DePaul in the 1st 2 rounds, took an 8-game winning streak into their Sweet 16 matchup against top-seeded Arizona.

There they stunned the Wildcats with a 68-67 victory on Anderson Hunt’s three-pointer with 2 seconds on the clock.  It was their 9th consecutive win.  But it all came to an end convincingly in the Regional Finals against Seton Hall, 84-61.  But with their surprise of Arizona, the Runnin’ Rebels and Hunt really gave college basketball a preview of 1990.

UNLV starters (points scored)

Stacey Augmon (17) – Small Forward

George Ackles (4) – Power Forward

David Butler (17) – Center

Greg Anthony (6) – Point Guard

Clint Rossum (11) – Shooting Guard

UNLV bench (points scored)

Anderson Hunt (15)

Moses Scurry (3)

Stacey Cvijanovich (0)

James Jones (1)

Barry Young (0)

UNLV Coach: Jerry Tarkanian

Louisville starters (points scored)

Tony Kimbro (13) – Small Forward

Kenny Payne (17) – Power Forward

Pervis Ellison (28) – Center

LaBradford Smith (13) – Point Guard

Keith Williams (6) – Shooting Guard

Louisville bench (points scored)

Felton Spencer (12)

James Brewer (3)

Cornelius Holden (0)

Craig Hawley (0)

Shannon Fraley (0)

Louisville Coach: Denny Crum

January 23, 1989 – St. John’s Red Men 64 @(#2)Georgetown Hoyas 75

Let’s put it frankly.  This was an ugly game.  There was no flow and there were many field goal droughts by both teams.  It was a typical ugly Big East game.  But there is one reason that this game hit the archives.  It was the coming out party of Dikembe Mutombo.

St. John’s had a history of beating Georgetown in Landover.  They did so in 1984 and 1985.  But they also did so in 1988, with senior Shelton Jones leading the way.  Jones and Mark Jackson were gone and Lou Carnesecca was now fielding a young team.

The only upper-classmen that got any playing time was senior guard Matt Brust.  The under-classmen were led by talented forwards sophomore Jayson Williams and freshman Malik Sealy.  The point guard was freshman Jason Buchanan and the usual center was freshman Robert Werdann (although sophomore Sean Muto was starting this game).  The 6th man was freshman Billy Singleton.

Despite the youth, St. John’s came into this matchup with a 12-4 record.  They had also won 5 in a row, including an upset of Syracuse.  But Alonzo Mourning put them in an early hole with 5 quick points.  But Mourning committed his 2nd foul on an offensive charge and had to go to the bench.  In came Mutombo.

A Charles Smith three-point play after a Bobby Winston steal put the Hoyas up 17-5.  Jayson Williams had one of the few (if any) successful moves against Mutombo by up-faking him, scoring a layup and drawing a foul.  That would St. John’s highlight for the first 3/4 of the 1st half.  Williams later committed his 3rd foul on an offensive foul and then Smith hit John Turner with a no-look under-hand pass for a layup.  Georgetown led 27-10.

At the defensive end, Mutombo was starting to garner up some shot blocks (no index finger wags yet).  Georgetown would take a 31-13 lead when Dwayne Bryant fed Winston for a spin and a layup.  That would be the Hoyas last field goal of the half but Mutombo kept shots from the middle from going near the hoop.  Dikembe finished the 1st half with 9 (count em 9!) blocked shots, including 3 on one possession.  Each block got a big cheer from the crowd.

However, St. John’s got back into the game with an 8-0 run to conclude the half.  Buchanan fed Singleton for a layup.  Then Jason got two more assists as he hit Brust for a three and then led Sealy for a layup and a foul.  Georgetown’s advantage was down to 32-24 at the break.

Mourning committed his 3rd foul early in the half and St. John’s cut it to 5 on a Buchanan three.  But Bryant and Jaren Jackson hit field goals to stem the tide.  Williams hit a turnaround fall-away jumper in the lane and got fouled.  But that would be his last hurrah.  After Mutombo committed his 3rd foul, Sealy missed a chance to cut the lead to 6 by bricking two free throws.

Turner put back a Bryant miss and Mourning hit a jumper from the top of the key.  Then Charles Smith pushed and found Jaren Jackson for a wing jumper.  This put Georgetown up 46-32.  On the rebound scramble, Jayson Williams and John Turner took some shots at each other.  The scuffle was broken up quickly but because both players had thrown punches, they were both ejected.

Mourning committed his 4th foul with the Hoyas up 50-38.  John Thompson, who by the way was back for this game after protesting Proposition 42, got a technical as he felt that Matt Brust had flopped on a long rebound.  Brust hit the two technical free throws and then the two shots on the Mourning foul to cut the lead to 8.  This started the Matt Brust show in which he single-handedly kept St. John’s from being demolished.

On the next possession, Mutombo got his 10th block and Smith fed Bryant for a breakaway layup.  Then on the next possession, Mutombo collected his 11th block to tie a Big East and Georgetown record (they never said who held the record but I’m assuming its Patrick Ewing and you probably should too).  Jackson then found Smith on a cut and then Jaren got a steal and layup.  Georgetown was up 56-42.

Brust hit back-to-back threes to put a nice dent into the lead but Smith came back with a floater and a foul.  Then Mutombo officially set a Big East and Georgetown record with his 12th and final block of the game.

Brust’s output made the game interesting but St. John’s could not get any closer than 6 in the final minute, despite Mourning fouling out.

Georgetown had their 6th win in a row, but that came to an end in their next game when the Hoyas traveled to New Orleans to take on LSU in a much-hyped game that 54,321 people attended, breaking the college basketball record for regular season attendance.  LSU was under-manned but freshman Chris Jackson (later Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) led the way with 26 points and senior Ricky Blanton followed up a miss for an 82-80 Tigers victory.

For St. John’s, the young team would finally catch up to Carnesecca as this loss started a major tailspin.  St. John’s lost their next 3 and finished the regular season with a 3-8 record, to put it at 15-12 overall, and dropped to the 8th spot in the Big East.  The Red Men then lost their 1st round game against 9-seeded Boston College.  But the Red Men did salvage their season a bit by winning the NIT Championship.

St. John’s starters (points scored)

Malik Sealy (9) – Small Forward

Jayson Williams (9) – Power Forward

Sean Muto (0) – Center

Jason Buchanan (5) – Point Guard

Matt Brust (26) – Shooting Guard

St. John’s bench (points scored)

Robert Werdann (3)

Billy Singleton (5)

Terrence Mullin (2)

Darrell Aiken (5)

St. John’s Coach: Lou Carnesecca

Georgetown starters (points scored)

Jaren Jackson (13) – Small Forward

John Turner (10) – Power Forward

Alonzo Mourning (9) – Center

Charles Smith (16) – Point Guard

Dwayne Bryant (18) – Shooting Guard

Georgetown bench (points scored)

Dikembe Mutombo (1)

Bobby Winston (4)

Milton Bell (2)

Mark Tillmon (2)

Sam Jefferson (0)

Johnathan Edwards (0)

Georgetown Coach: John Thompson

mutombo '89

Mutombo set a Big East record with 12 blocked shots against St. John’s *photo courtesy of ebay

February 13, 1989 – (#6)Syracuse Orangemen 54 @(#4)Georgetown Hoyas 61

After their loss to LSU, Georgetown had won three games in a row.  But perhaps in looking forward too much to the Syracuse game, they dropped a game at Pitt 79-74 two days before this one (although Pitt was a decent team as they finished 4th in the Big East).

Pitt had, in fact, given Syracuse their first loss of the year after the Orangemen won their first 13 games.  Syracuse then crushed Seton Hall (Syracuse would go 3-0 against a Final Four Seton Hall team) before dropping three road games in a row to Villanova, St. John’s and UConn.  But the Orangemen responded by winning 7 games in a row (to bring their record to 21-4) going into the Georgetown matchup in Landover, Maryland (where Jim Boeheim had never won as a coach).

After making the National Championship Game in 1987, Syracuse reverted back to being an upset victim in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament in 1988.  As a #3 seed, they were upset by 11th seeded Rhode Island in the 2nd round.  Rony Seikaly then became the #9 pick in the NBA draft.  But Syracuse’s top three scorers in 1989 were on that ’87 team.  Leading the way was junior guard Stephen Thompson, followed by junior big man Derrick Coleman and senior point guard Sherman Douglas.

Syracuse also had one of the best freshmen in the nation in forward Billy Owens.  The 5th starter was junior shooter Matt Roe.  Off the bench were freshmen Dave Johnson and Rich Manning, as well as senior Herman Harried.  They didn’t contribute much offense though, which meant Douglas, Roe, Thompson, Owens and Coleman started every game that they played in.

Sherman Douglas came out showing off his point guard skills as he found Thompson for two layups and then bullet-fed Coleman for another to put Syracuse up 6-2.  But Georgetown came back as their big men, John Turner and Alonzo Mourning, hit hook shots.  Then their senior point guard Charles Smith nailed a three.

The game was a typical Big East defensive game but whenever Syracuse got a basket, it seemed to be Coleman who was getting it inside.  Derrick scored 16 first half points (including 12 straight Syracuse points over a long stretch).  Though it was a defensive game, only four free throws were shot in the 1st half (all by Syracuse and all missed).

Mark Tillmon scored 7 points off the Georgetown bench to put the Hoyas up 20-14.  Then Turner got a steal and Smith fed Mourning for a slam.  Tillmon followed with a steal and Dwayne Bryant hustled down his own miss and scored to give Georgetown a 10-point lead.  But then, just like that, Georgetown went cold against the Syracuse 2-3 zone.

The Orangemen finally got other people involved as Matt Roe got a breakaway layup after a Douglas steal.  A Coleman steal led to Douglas’ first basket on a breakaway.  Then Thompson kicked out to Billy Owens for an elbow jumper and his first field goal.  The Georgetown lead was now cut to 26-22.  Coleman then got a spin and layup after an inbounds, Douglas connected on a breakaway double-pump, and then Douglas alley-ooped to Thompson on the break for a slam.  Syracuse now led 28-26.

After Mourning put back his own miss to tie it, Coleman had his highlight of the game as he drove past Mourning at the perimeter and tomahawk slammed one down.  It was a fitting end to the half for Coleman as he had given the Orangemen a 30-28 lead at the break.

Georgetown’s defense would be the story of the 2nd half as they started by holding Syracuse to three points in the first 8 minutes.  Smith hit a pull-up in the lane after a steal.  Mourning hit a hook.  Jaren Jackson hit a high-arcing fall-away from the baseline.  Tillmon fed Turner for a layup and eventually Smith hit a three for a 39-33 lead.

Alonzo Mourning showed his flair at both ends of the floor as he blocked several Syracuse layups at one end.  At the other, Mourning got one slam after a drop-step to the middle against Coleman and later got another dunk (a reverse slam this time) after rebounding a Smith airball.

Although Georgetown would not lead by more than 8, Syracuse could never get a necessary shot to go down to get them back into it.  Billy Owens finished the game 1-for-9 from the field before fouling out.  Douglas tried to take control himself in the final minutes (completely forgetting about Coleman and his strong game) but ended up fouling out as well.

Syracuse never got closer than four and two Charles Smith buckets ended up being the biggest daggers, along with Mourning finishing with 5 blocks.

The Orangemen did rebound to win 4 of their final 5 regular season games (including beating Georgetown in a rematch at the Carrier Dome).  They finished 3rd in the Big East (one game behind Seton Hall) but made it to the Big East final against top-seeded Georgetown.  The Hoyas won 88-79 for their 2nd conference championship in 3 years.

Syracuse would be named a #2 seed in the Midwest Regional.  This time, they weren’t an upset special as they destroyed Bucknell and Colorado State in the first two rounds.  They survived Missouri in the Sweet 16 before dropping a close one to top-seeded Illinois 89-86 in the Regional Final.

Georgetown’s only loss for the rest of the regular season and conference tournament would be that rematch to Syracuse on Sherman Douglas’ senior day.  They were 26-4 and the top seed in the East Regional.  But they wouldn’t have as easy a time as Syracuse would have in the early rounds.

Syracuse starters (points scored)

Stephen Thompson (10) – Small Forward

Billy Owens (5) – Power Forward

Derrick Coleman (22) – Center

Sherman Douglas (13) – Point Guard

Matt Roe (2) – Shooting Guard

Syracuse bench (points scored)

Dave Johnson (2)

Herman Harried (0)

Rich Manning (0)

Syracuse Coach: Jim Boeheim

Georgetown starters (points scored)

Jaren Jackson (7) – Small Forward

John Turner (6) – Power Forward

Alonzo Mourning (14) – Center

Charles Smith (16) – Point Guard

Dwayne Bryant (7) – Shooting Guard

Georgetown bench (points scored)

Mark Tillmon (9)

Dikembe Mutombo (0)

Milton Bell (0)

Bobby Winston (2)

Anthony Allen (0)

Ronnie Thompson (0)

Georgetown Coach: John Thompson

February 26, 1989 – (#2) Arizona Wildcats 77, (#9)Duke Blue Devils 75

In an NCAA tournament-like scenario, both Arizona and Duke got to travel to East Rutherford, New Jersey for a late season matchup.  Arizona had gone 13-1 since their loss to Stanford.  Their only blemish was two weeks earlier at Oklahoma.  Oklahoma was the only team ahead of Arizona in the polls, but the Sooners lost the previous day at Missouri.  So Arizona could grab the top spot with a win.

The top spot had been where Duke had been in the rankings for the first 10 weeks of the season.  The Blue Devils had won their first 13 games and senior All-American Danny Ferry set a Duke and ACC record with 58 points in a 117-102 win over Miami (Florida).  But then the Blue Devils hosted North Carolina and suffered a 91-71 drubbing.  Duke then lost at Wake Forest and NC State.  Following a home win over Clemson, the Devils suffered their 4th loss in 5 games at Georgia Tech.  But Duke rebounded to win their next 7 games (all by more than 18 point margins).

Ferry led a senior class with point guard Quin Snyder and forward John Smith.  There was a trio of juniors with center Alaa Abdelnaby, forward Robert Brickey, and guard Phil Henderson.  The only sophomore that got significant playing time was shooter Greg Koubek.  There was a big-time freshman to go with these guys.  His name was Christian Laettner.  Fellow freshman Brian Davis got some time as well.

Perhaps still in the back of Duke’s mind was their 1988 Final Four showing against Kansas in which they fell behind 14-0.  It almost happened here against Arizona.  Sean Elliott led Anthony Cook for a breakaway three-point play to start off the scoring.  Then Jud Buechler put back an Elliott miss.  Buechler followed by leading Matt Muehlebach (a sophomore guard who was now starting) for a breakaway layup.  Kenny Lofton then hit a pull-up from the foul line to make it 9-0 Arizona.

Duke cracked the ice briefly when Ferry found John Smith for a corner three.  But Arizona followed that with another 9-0 run.  Lofton hit a three from the top.  Muehlebach got a steal and was able to feed Buechler for a slam.  Lofton found Cook for a layup.  Then Elliott finally got on the board with a pull-up from the foul line.  Smith again cracked the Duke ice with a baseline pull-up.  Smith hit again on a baseline drive after Cook hit two free throws.  Arizona led 20-7 with 9:34 gone in the 1st half.

A technical on Lute Olsen helped Ferry get on the board with two free throws.  But a Cook pull-up in the lane and then a three from freshman guard Matt Othick put the Wildcats up 27-9.  Zona’s lead increased to 30-11 when Muehlebach hit another three.

Robert Brickey gave Duke a spark off the bench as he found Ferry for a corner jumper and then hit two field goals before picking up his 3rd foul.  Elliott then hit two free throws, hit a pull-up in transition, and then put back a Cook miss.  The Arizona lead was at 37-19.  But then they went as cold as the weather in New Jersey probably was that day (and weather that Arizona isn’t used to).

Ferry hit a turnaround from the mid-post and then found Phil Henderson for a layup in transition.  Ferry followed with a steal and Quin Snyder led Laettner for a layup.  A transition layup by Henderson (after he got by Lofton with a behind-the-back dribble) that was counted on a Anthony Cook goaltend cut the lead to 37-27.

Later, with 8 seconds left in the half, Snyder found Ferry for a three from the wing.  It cut Arizona’s halftime lead to 38-32.

Duke’s momentum continued in the second half as Ferry hit a jumper from the post, Snyder hit a reverse layup on a baseline drive and Ferry tied it at 38 with two free throws.  Olsen got his second technical (at the time, a coach was ejected after three technicals).  Ferry hit a free throw and Snyder fed Laettner for a layup.  Duke was on their own 9-0 run.

Buechler put back a miss but then Ferry found Laettner with an over-the-shoulder pass for a layup.  A possession later, Snyder hit a three from the wing to make the score 46-40 Duke.  After the shot was launched, a foul was called on Buechler.  It was his 4th.  As per rules of the time, instead of somebody shooting a free throw for a four-point play, Duke got the ball back and Snyder scored for a five-point play.

Muehlebach hit a big three for Arizona and then Rooks hit two free throws after Cook blocked a Ferry shot for his 6th block.  Duke maintained a 53-47 lead despite Brickey picking up his 4th foul.  But then Arizona went on an 8-0 run (with Elliott getting 6 of the points) to take the lead.  But Duke stayed it in and even regained a lead after back-to-back threes from Ferry.  But Henderson picked up his 4th foul and Ferry wasn’t getting much scoring help (something that would manifest itself in a bigger game later in the season).

Despite Brickey eventually fouling out, Ferry kept Duke in the game and finally got some help when Henderson nailed a long two to put the Blue Devils up 70-69.  Buechler tied it with a free throw with 1:59 left.  Duke naturally went to Ferry on their next two possessions.  First, he committed an offensive foul and then threw up an airball.  Elliott got the ball for Arizona and nailed a pull-up three over Ferry from the top with 53 seconds to go to give the Wildcats a 73-70 lead.

Ferry tried to respond with a three but it was short and the ball went out of bounds off of Duke with 35 seconds to go.  After each team called a timeout, Arizona inbounded and moved the ball ahead for an Anthony Cook layup.  John Smith nailed a three to keep Duke alive with 19 seconds to go, down 75-73.  Elliott hit both ends of a 1-and-1 and Snyder hit a short baseline jumper with 7 seconds to go.  Arizona led 77-75.

Duke stopped the clock with a timeout and Ferry fouled Cook with 6 seconds left.  Cook, a 63% foul shooter in 1989, missed the front end of a 1-and-1.  Ferry rebounded and dribbled to half court before finding Laettner for a seemingly easy breakaway layup.  Laettner lost the ball for a second but a foul was called on Lofton with two seconds left.  Christian had a 1-and-1 and Arizona called a timeout to ice the freshman.

Although the freshman would be lauded for clutch plays while at Duke, he bricked the front end of the 1-and-1 to end the game.  Arizona had won and (after winning the Pac-10 tournament and grabbing a 1-seed in the West Regional) were on an 11-game winning streak before dropping a stunner to UNLV in the Sweet 16.

Duke was locked in a close race for the ACC regular season title in which the Devils and NC State were one game behind North Carolina for the top spot.

Arizona starters (points scored)

Jud Buechler (7) – Small Forward

Sean Elliott (24) – Power Forward

Anthony Cook (19) – Center

Kenny Lofton (5) – Point Guard

Matt Muehlebach (14) – Shooting Guard

Arizona bench (points scored)

Matt Othick (3)

Sean Rooks (5)

Harvey Mason (0)

Wayne Womack (0)

Arizona Coach: Lute Olson

Duke starters (points scored)

Danny Ferry (29) – Small Forward

John Smith (10) – Power Forward

Alaa Abdelnaby (2) – Center

Quin Snyder (9) – Point Guard

Phil Henderson (9) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Christian Laettner (12)

Robert Brickey (4)

Greg Koubek (0)

Brian Davis (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

arizona-1988-sean-elliott

Sean Elliott was an All-American for the second straight season in 1989 *photo courtesy of Sole Collector

March 1, 1989 – (#5)North Carolina Tarheels 74 @Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 76

Going into the day, the top 5 teams in the ACC looked like this.

  • North Carolina            9-3
  • Duke                         8-4
  • NC State                   8-4
  • Georgia Tech             7-5
  • Virginia                      7-5

The point is, is was tight!  Virginia beat 7th seeded Wake Forest while 6th seeded Clemson upset Duke.  So Georgia Tech had to win to keep pace with Virginia and tie Duke.

North Carolina had started the season at 13-1 (their only loss being against Missouri).  Then Iowa beat them 98-97 and, three days before traveling to undefeated Duke, the Tarheels were killed at Virginia 106-83.  They returned the favor at Duke by beating the Blue Devils 91-71 and winning their next 4 games.  Then after back-to-back losses on the road to Clemson and NC State, UNC went off on a 6-game winning streak entering the Georgia Tech game.

As for the players, the top player was still J.R. Reid.  Reid had missed the first 9 games of the year and his NBA stock didn’t seem to be rising.  Although he averaged 15.5 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game, he didn’t seem to be as dominating as he was in his first two years.  Reid was flanked by fellow juniors Scott Williams and Kevin Madden, seniors Jeff Lebo and Steve Bucknall, and sophomores Rick Fox, King Rice and Pete Chilcutt.  Freshman Hubert Davis was also getting some time, although he wouldn’t be as big a factor as he would be in his final three years.

Georgia Tech had had a so-so regular season.  Their longest winning streak had been 4 games but they hadn’t lost more than 2 in a row.  They were 19-9 entering the North Carolina game.  Leading the way was senior forward Tom Hammonds.  Hammonds, in his final home appearance, became the 5th player in GT history to get his number retired.  Hammonds was flanked by junior guard Brian Oliver and sophomore sharp-shooter Dennis Scott.  Junior college transfers Karl Brown and Johnny McNeil normally filled the other two starting spots but Bobby Cremins started seniors Anthony Sherrod and Willie Reese in their final home appearance.

Scott Williams got two early baskets for North Carolina.  But Scott bested him with a three and a no-look assist on a Hammonds slam.  Scott, in fact, scored 11 of Tech’s first 20 points to give them a small lead.  Williams led UNC early on with 8 points but missed a breakaway slam embarrassingly.  Tech took a 26-20 lead before Rick Fox got going with a three and a pull-up in the lane.  Fox then hit a turnaround banker from the mid-post area and answered a Scott three with one of his own.  Fox’s 10-3 run gave UNC a 30-29 lead and Williams hit a jumper in the lane to increase that lead to three.

But Hammonds hit a free throw and field goal to tie the game.  Then Scott found McNeil for a layup in transition and Oliver put back a Scott miss.  Only a second effort basket from Kevin Madden just before the half kept UNC within 36-34 at the break.

Georgia Tech kept its slight lead throughout most of the 2nd half.  Scott hit three more treys early on but Reid, who came off the bench in this game, kept Carolina in it with two three-point plays.  The Yellow Jackets took their biggest lead at 63-56 when Hammonds got loose on the break for a flying slam for only his 4th point of the 2nd half.

But Tech’s only field goal in the next few minutes was Hammonds putting back a Karl Brown miss.  Carolina inched closer but got screwed when a Scott Williams tip-in was taken away because of offensive goaltending (although the ball was clearly off the rim).  Hammonds hit two more free throws and a baseline jumper, but that would be Tech’s only points in a stretch where Carolina took the lead on two Reid free throws with 1:26 left.  It was 71-70 UNC.

Williams then stole a Brian Oliver pass and was fouled at the other end.  Scott split his two free throws and North Carolina led by two.  Fox then fouled Brown trying to deny him the ball.  Karl split his free throws too and Carolina got the ball out of bounds with 49 seconds left.  They called a timeout leading 72-71.

But Tech’s defense denied the inbounds and forced a 5-second violation.  The Jackets then decided to hold the ball for the final shot (or close to it).  They ran it down to 11 seconds before calling a timeout.  They went inside to Hammonds, who was doubled.  Reid knocked the ball off of Hammonds and out of bounds with 8 seconds left.

After a timeout, Hammonds fouled Steve Bucknall with 7 ticks to go.  Bucknall hit both shots for a 74-71 lead.  While Bucknall was shooting, the camera caught Dean Smith telling his team to foul before Georgia Tech got off a tying three-point shot.  Lebo obliged by fouling Brown at half court with 5 seconds left.  Brown made both ends of the 1-and-1.  What happened next would live on in Georgia Tech lore.

Instead of calling their last timeout, Madden threw a quarter-length pass to Williams.  Williams caught it in the air but Scott stole it when he came down.  Dennis then turned around, launched and nailed a three-pointer with 2 seconds left that sent Alexander Memorial Coliseum (or the Thriller Dome) into a frenzy.

Carolina was able to get its last timeout before the clock ran out.  And they actually got a decent shot.  Madden threw a long pass to Fox, who barely missed a long three-point attempt.

Georgia Tech was now tied with two other teams for 3rd place in the ACC.  But it turned out to be Tech’s last win of the year.  They lost their last regular season game at Clemson and dropped to 5th in the ACC.  They then lost their ACC tournament quarterfinal game and were a #6 seed in the Midwest Regional.  They were upset in round 1 by 11th seeded Texas.  While Hammonds left, Georgia Tech would become a factor in 1990 like they never had before.  This was thanks in large part to a freshman point guard who they stole from North Carolina in a recruiting battle.

North Carolina was now a half-game ahead of NC State at the top of the ACC.  The standings would be tied a day later when the Wolfpack defeated bottom-feeder Maryland.  Both North Carolina and NC State would take on their big in-state conference rivals in the last game of the season to try and gain the regular season title.

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Steve Bucknall (8) – Small Forward

Pete Chilcutt (6) – Power Forward

Scott Williams (17) – Center

King Rice (0) – Point Guard

Jeff Lebo (2) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

J.R. Reid (20)

Rick Fox (14)

Kevin Madden (7)

Hubert Davis (0)

Jeff Denny (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

Georgia Tech starters (points scored)

Anthony Sherrod (0) – Small Forward

Tom Hammonds (19) – Power Forward

Willie Reese (0) – Center

Brian Oliver (12) – Point Guard

Dennis Scott (28) – Shooting Guard

Georgia Tech bench (points scored)

Karl Brown (6)

Johnny McNeil (5)

Maurice Brittian (2)

David Whitmore (4)

Georgia Tech Coach: Bobby Cremins

hammonds

Tom Hammonds became the 5th Georgia Tech player to get his jersey retired on his senior day in 1989 *photo courtesy of ebay

March 4, 1989 – (#20)NC State Wolfpack 110 @Wake Forest Demon Deacons 103 (4OT)

Compared to North Carolina going against Duke for an ACC regular season title, NC State should have had an easy time versus 13-14 (3-10 in the ACC) Wake Forest.  But mid-way through the 2nd half, the Deacons took a 52-48 lead after a 10-0 run.  They had been trailing most of the game (and were behind at halftime 42-35) but now their ‘home crowd’ at Greensboro Coliseum was going crazy.

NC State had lost Charles Shackleford and Vinny Del Negro from their 1988 team.  But with players like Chucky Brown, Chris Corchiani, Rodney Monroe and Brian Howard returning and freshman Tom Gugliotta coming in, the Wolfpack started the season at 12-1.  Jim Valvano’s Wolfpack then went 6-6 (5-4 vs. the ACC) before defeating Maryland in their home finale two days before this game to tie UNC for top spot in the conference.

Wake Forest had not made the NCAA tournament since 1984 and coach Bob Staak was in his 4th and final season at the helm.  The hope for the Deacons were two freshmen.  Point guard Derrick McQueen and forward Chris King.  Although King had a stellar four years at Wake Forest, his best contribution to the Deacons and to basketball was discovering a big man in the U.S. Virgin Islands by the name of Tim Duncan.

The Deacons also had unheralded sophomore Robert Siler and juniors Sam Ivy and Ralph Kitley.  The only senior who would be celebrating his senior day in this game was sharp-shooter Cal Boyd.

King and Siler had led the Wake Forest attack so far in the game with 16 and 14 points, respectively.  Chucky Brown led NC State with 21 but the high-scoring Monroe had struggled.  Wake Forest increased their lead to as much as seven.  They had a chance on one possession to increase that lead but Corchiani got a steal and fed Brown for a slam.

That sparked an NC State 10-0 run that gave them a 65-62 lead.  A big key to that run was third guard/defensive specialist Kelsey Weems (who got the last 4 points).  The teams traded points from there and neither could stop each other.

A Chucky Brown three-point play gave NC State a 70-68 lead but a Boyd feed to King tied it at 70 with 2:30 to go.  Brown came back with a hook shot but Siler lobbed to King to tie the game again.  Wolfpack junior big man Avie Lester hit a turnaround from the baseline to put NC State back ahead.  But Siler delivered a hay-maker with a three from the top.  NC State now trailed 75-74 and called a timeout with 51 seconds to go.

Weems penetrated and hit Howard, who blew the layup.  There was a rebound scramble and a held ball.  The arrow pointed NC State’s way.  The Wolfpack ran down the clock but Brown airballed a runner and Lester lost the rebound out of bounds with 9 seconds left.  Monroe had to foul Sam Ivy with 8 seconds left.  Ivy made both shots for a 77-74 Wake Forest lead.

Staack’s strategy was then to foul NC State before they got a three-point shot off.  They did foul Weems but he almost banked in a three with 2 seconds left.  However, as per rules at the time, Weems only got two shots instead of three.  So after Kelsey made the first, the strategy became to miss the second intentionally and have NC State put it back in.

It worked perfectly as Weems banged it off the rim and Monroe followed it up and scored at the buzzer to tie the game.  This play probably ended up saving NC State from dropping to 4th place in the ACC.

King hit two field goals to give Wake a 4-point lead.  But Monroe, who was starting to come on thanks to his last second heroics, tied the game at 82 with a baseline drive at the 1:38 mark.  A minute later, Wake took the lead again when the senior Boyd hit a runner in the lane.  NC State called a timeout with 13 seconds left.  They went to their playmaker Chris Corchiani.  He went 1-on-1 and hit a pull-up jumper in the lane after a spin with 7 seconds left.

Freshman Derrick McQueen then made a young mistake by dribbling down court but not getting a shot off.  The game was going into a second overtime.

Corchiani drove and scored the first points of the 2nd OT and sprained his ankle on the play.  But he stayed in.  Two free throws from Lester gave the Wolfpack a 4-point lead but back-to-back threes from McQueen and Boyd put the Deacs in front.  Two free throws from Brian Howard with 1:51 to go tied the game at 90.  But another runner from Boyd gave Wake Forest the lead again.

Monroe tied it again with a wing jumper at the 48 second mark.  Wake Forest ran it down but Siler badly missed a pull-up jumper.  NC State got a timeout with 4 seconds left but didn’t end up getting off a shot in time.

Wake took an early lead in the 3rd overtime when Siler found McQueen for a reverse layup on the break.  The next two baskets came near the end of the shot clock as Monroe and King delivered for their teams.  A Brian Howard tip-in tied the game at 96 with 1:07 left.  With 31 seconds left, Corchiani got caught with a reach-in attempt and was called for his 4th foul.  But Sam Ivy missed the front end of the 1-and-1.

The game ended with a strange sequence that seemed appropriate.  NC State was holding for the last shot but Siler got a steal.  However, he slipped and lost the ball.  Monroe recovered it but then he slipped and lost it out of bounds with 1 second left.  As was the case in the last two overtimes, the final team with the ball didn’t get off a shot.  Wake Forest was the guilty party this time.

For the first time in the 36 year history of the ACC, there was a four overtime game.

NC State finally showed some superiority and made quick work of the first 4 minutes.  Howard tipped in a Monroe miss.  Monroe fed Brown for a cutting layup.  Corchiani penetrated and found Lester for a slam.  Lester, amazingly, became the first player to foul out of this game in the 4th OT.  Monroe and Brown got field goals and then a cutting layup from Weems put NC State up 108-99 with 1:00 left.

But Wake Forest made a charge that ended when Antonio Johnson, who came in when Siler became the first Demon Deacon to foul out, rimmed out a three that could have cut the lead to 108-106.

NC State had claimed at least a share of the ACC regular season title.  They would become a #5 seed in the East Regional after Maryland, who had 1 ACC win, killed the Wolfpack in the opening round of the ACC tournament by a score of 71-49.  Maryland coach Bob Wade must’ve been so shocked that he had a mild heart attack while talking to reporters in the postgame.

Wake Forest ended the season with an 88-64 loss to Duke in their opening round game of the ACC tournament.

NC State starters (points scored)

Brian Howard (11) – Small Forward

Chucky Brown (34) – Power Forward

Avie Lester (18) – Center

Chris Corchiani (10) – Point Guard

Rodney Monroe (26) – Shooting Guard

NC State bench (points scored)

Tom Gugliotta (0)

Kelsey Weems (9)

Mickey Hinnant (2)

Brian D’Amico (0)

NC State Coach: Jim Valvano

Wake Forest starters (points scored)

Chris King (34) – Small Forward

Sam Ivy (17) – Power Forward

Ralph Kitley (2) – Center

Derrick McQueen (13) – Point Guard

Cal Boyd (12) – Shooting Guard

Wake Forest bench (points scored)

Robert Siler (21)

Phil Medlin (0)

Antonio Johnson (2)

David Carlyle (2)

Darryl Cheeley (0)

Wake Forest Coach: Bob Staak

March 5, 1989 – (#9)Duke Blue Devils 88 @(#5)North Carolina Tarheels 86

It was not made clear during the game about whether North Carolina would get a top-seed in the ACC tournament if they won and tied with NC State or how far they would fall if they lost.  But what was assured from just looking at the standings was that Duke would drop to 4th or 5th if they lost and UNC would be 1 or 2 if they won.

Both teams were coming in on a losing streak.  Duke had dropped its last two, to Arizona and Clemson, while Carolina lost a heart-breaker at Georgia Tech in their latest game.  Dean Smith changed around the starting lineup from the Georgia Tech game.  J.R. Reid, Rick Fox, and David May (who was starting only because it was senior day, Kevin Madden would be the starter when the ACC tournament opened) were in place of Scott Williams, King Rice and Pete Chilcutt.

Reid responded by scoring 6 of UNC’s first 8 points.  Bucknall, with his family visiting from England and watching him live at UNC for the first time, also was a factor as UNC held the lead for a good portion of the first half.  But Danny Ferry’s passing clinic kept Duke hanging around.

Ferry’s feed to Clay Buckley (a sophomore center who was getting playing time in place of Alaa Abdelnaby, who Coach K was putting on the pine for missing class) gave Duke a 31-30 lead.  Ferry then hit a three but a trey from Jeff Lebo tied the game at 35.  After Scott Williams committed his 3rd foul, Ferry hit a pull-up from the wing after a spin.

Duke took a 4-point lead with 11 seconds to go when Robert Brickey spun and hit a runner from the baseline.  But Bucknall came right back to score at the buzzer on a drive and UNC trailed 41-39.

Bucknall continued to be a major factor as his 5 consecutive points tied the game at 51.  Despite Williams picking up his 4th foul, Carolina took a 57-53 lead when Madden found Chilcutt for a slam, a play which forced a Duke timeout.  Back-to-back baskets from Reid and the 4th foul on Christian Laettner helped Carolina build it to 63-57.

Duke came back to cut it to 63-60 but then Bucknall banked in a pull-up and drew a foul.  The three-point play set off a 7-0 run.  Bucknall fed Lebo for a reverse and Williams put back a Fox miss and the Tarheels led 70-60 with 7:22 left.

After a Duke timeout, senior Blue Devil Quin Snyder nailed two three-pointers and Scott Williams fouled out.  Duke managed to cut it to 72-70 when reserve Greg Koubek drove baseline for a score.  But then with just over 4:00 left, Laettner fouled out.

Despite that, Ferry’s three from the corner put Duke up 75-73.  After Bucknall tied the game with free throws, Snyder hit his 3rd three of the half to put the Blue Devils up by three.  Then with 2:23 to go, two free throws from Koubek made it 80-75 Duke.  It was a long and crazy final 2:23.

Bucknall hit a pull-up with 2:13 to go.  Ferry responded with a pull-up from the baseline.  Lebo found Madden for a layup with 1:43 to go and Carolina used a timeout.  Duke ran down the clock before Phil Henderson drove.  He banged into Bucknall, who was called for a blocking foul with 1:21 to go.  Henderson split the free throws and it was 83-79 Duke.

Bucknall split a pair of free throws with 1:04 to go and Reid fouled Robert Brickey after the rebound.  Brickey was a 56% foul shooter in 1989 but he nailed both.  Bucknall came back with a runner at the 55 second mark.  But instead of using their last timeout, UNC pressed and Ferry threw a long pass to Henderson for a slam.  But Fox came right back with a three and the Tarheels did use a timeout at 40 seconds.  It was 87-85 Duke.

The Tarheels appeared to have some magic (or other factors) when Ferry slipped on the floor after the inbounds pass and was called for traveling.  Ferry answered though by knocking a ball away from Reid in the post and Snyder getting the ball.  Reid fouled Snyder with 22 seconds left.  Quin missed the front end of the 1-and-1.

Carolina came down without a timeout and Koubek stole a King Rice pass.  Snyder raced it up court where UNC knocked it out of bounds with 8 seconds to go.  Duke tried a long throw to Snyder at half court.  It was overthrown and Rice stole it.  Snyder hustled back to foul King with 3 seconds left and Rice almost made the layup.

Rice made the first shot but missed the second.  Brickey rebounded and was fouled by Rick Fox, his 5th, with 1 second left.  Brickey made the first but missed the second intentionally (just grazing the rim in a throw off the backboard).  It worked as the clock ran out and Duke had escaped.

As it turned out, the loss dropped North Carolina to 4th in the ACC standings.  Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina each were 9-5.  Duke grabbed the 2nd seed.  These teams would meet again in the ACC tournament final a week later in Atlanta.  Fireworks would ensue and we’ll discuss it after a fireworks ending in the Big Ten.

Duke starters (points scored)

Danny Ferry (24) – Small Forward

John Smith (2) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (4) – Center

Quin Snyder (15) – Point Guard

Phil Henderson (16) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

Greg Koubek (14)

Robert Brickey (9)

Clay Buckley (4)

Brian Davis (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

North Carolina starters (points scored)

David May (0) – Small Forward

Steve Bucknall (23) – Power Forward

J.R. Reid (18) – Center

Jeff Lebo (9) – Point Guard

Rick Fox (10) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Kevin Madden (8)

Scott Williams (10)

Pete Chilcutt (7)

King Rice (1)

Hubert Davis (0)

Jeff Denny (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

March 5, 1989 – (#8)Illinois Fighting Illini 70 @(#3)Indiana Hoosiers 67

The 1989 Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team (or, as they came to be known, the Flying Illini) was loaded.  There was future NBA talent and a lot of superior athletes.  The biggest names in terms of NBA talent was junior forward Nick Anderson and junior guard Kendall Gill.  But there was also senior forward Kenny Battle, junior point/defensive guard Steve Bardo, and sophomore swingman Marcus Liberty who all saw time in the NBA.

Other key Illini players were senior center Lowell Hamilton, junior guard Larry Smith, junior big man Ervin Small and pint-sized P.J. Bowman.  Illinois had won their first 17 games of the season.  Their 17th was the most exciting as the Illini came back from a 16-point deficit to defeat Georgia Tech in double overtime.  However, near the end of regulation of that game, Kendall Gill would fracture a metatarsal.  The last game that Gill would be out for was this Indiana game.

But Illinois stumbled without its top guard.  They lost three of their next four games (their only win was a home win against Indiana) and suffered a 20-point loss at Wisconsin in the middle of February to snap a 3-game winning streak.  But the Illini put it together after that with three consecutive wins going into the Indiana game.

Indiana had surprised everybody by standing atop the Big Ten with a 14-1 mark (their only loss being the first Illinois game).  In fact, the first Illinois game was Indiana’s only loss in the past 22 games after getting blown out four times early in the season against Syracuse, North Carolina, Louisville and Notre Dame.

In many of those wins, the Hoosiers and their fans could thank sophomore Jay Edwards.  Edwards had been the catalyst to many close late game victories.  His highlight was a buzzer-beating game-winning three-pointer against Michigan in the middle of February.  This gave the Hoosiers two wins over Michigan by a combined two points.  Edwards also averaged 20 points per game and rode this wave of momentum into declaring early for the NBA draft (after the season) and being a 2nd round pick.

Other key Hoosiers was sophomore point guard Lyndon Jones (who was Edwards’ teammate in high school), senior shooting guard Joe Hillman, senior center Todd Jadlow and a pair of freshmen; forward Eric Anderson and guard Jamal Meeks.

In the first half of this game, both teams had enough bricks to build the neighborhoods of Bloomington, Indiana and Champaign, Illinois (cue the drums!).  But the intensity far out-weighed the bad shooting.  Indiana could clinch a Big Ten title with one more victory, while Illinois (3 games behind with 3 to play) was hanging on by a thread at 11-4.

Nick Anderson and Marcus Liberty (who was and had been starting in Gill’s place) got six and four points, respectively, for the Illini early.  Then Kenny Battle got going a bit with a flying slam on the break.  Joe Hillman was the early catalyst for the Hoosiers with 8 of their first 16 points.

Hillman finished the half with 13 while Battle and Anderson led Illinois with 11 and 10, respectively.  Battle got his last points with 4 seconds left in the half when he somehow controlled a Larry Smith feed and scored a layup.  This cut Indiana’s lead to 27-25 at the break.

Indiana finally got going in the 2nd half as Lyndon Jones hit two field goals and forced Lou Henson to call an Illinois timeout.  Henson had to do it again after a Jones driving layup put Indiana ahead 35-25.  Jones ended up scoring 11 points early in the 2nd half and his lob pass to Jadlow put the Hoosiers ahead 47-34.

Illinois brought in 5’8″ P.J. Bowman to put defensive pressure on Jones.  This helped slow the Indiana offense as the Illini and their superior athletes roamed around defensively and on the offensive boards.  Hamilton got it started with a rebound-slam of a Bardo miss.  Bowman and Bardo hit big three-pointers.  Hamilton hit a turnaround from the post.  Nick Anderson drew Hillman’s 4th foul as he scored a banker from inside.  Then an Anderson slam after Larry Smith penetration cut Indiana’s lead to 54-52.

But for a while, the Illini just couldn’t get over the hump to tie or take a lead.  Edwards and Hillman got baskets over the next few minutes which were goaltended by over-zealous Illini.  Edwards then hit a three which put the Hoosiers up 65-61.

It was then though that Illinois would finally make a run to get ahead.  Battle hit a big turnaround jumper in the post and drew a foul.  Then with 1:38 to go, Bardo hit a three to put Illinois up 67-65.  However, with two chances over the next minute to increase the lead at the foul line, Anderson (sorry Orlando Magic fans for the flashback) and Battle each missed front ends of 1-and-1’s.

After an Indiana timeout with 17 seconds to go, they went to their magic clutch player Jay Edwards.  Edwards went to the left baseline and pulled up behind the backboard.  He shot over Hamilton and swished it.  The clock ran out but the Illini had successfully called a timeout with 2 seconds left.  Edwards had just tied the game and sent Assembly Hall in Bloomington into a frenzy.

It was about to die down.  Bardo threw a full-length pass to Nick Anderson.  Anderson launched from halfway between halfcourt and the three-point line with Edwards up against him.  The ball swished in.  Keith Jackson and Dick Vitale went crazy, as did the Illini bench.  Jamal Meeks crumpled to the floor and Bob Knight walked off disgusted with life.  Watch the final 17 seconds here:

Indiana ended up winning the Big Ten as they beat Wisconsin at home 4 days later.  But they dropped their final game at Iowa and were named a #2 seed in the West Regional.  They lost to 3-seeded Seton Hall in the Sweet 16.  Only Jones, Anderson and Meeks would be back the next season.  So Knight was able to get freshmen like Calbert Cheaney, Greg and Pat Graham, Matt Nover, Chris Lawson, and Chris Reynolds on board for 1990.  Then Damon Bailey came aboard in 1991.

For Illinois, Gill would be back for their next game against Iowa.  And the Illini showed how dangerous they could be by defeating the Hawkeyes 118-94 and then beating Michigan 89-73 in Ann Arbor (only killing the teams that finished 3rd and 4th in the Big Ten and made the NCAA tournament).  As a result, they were a 1-seed in the Midwest Regional and made it all the way to the Final Four.  They would see one of those Big Ten teams again.

Illinois starters (points scored)

Nick Anderson (23) – Small Forward

Kenny Battle (19) – Power Forward

Lowell Hamilton (8) – Center

Steve Bardo (9) – Point Guard

Marcus Liberty (4) – Shooting Guard

Illinois bench (points scored)

Larry Smith (4)

Ervin Small (0)

P.J. Bowman (3)

Illinois Coach: Lou Henson

Indiana starters (points scored)

Jay Edwards (17) – Small Forward

Eric Anderson (2) – Power Forward

Todd Jadlow (10) – Center

Lyndon Jones (14) – Point Guard

Joe Hillman (24) – Shooting Guard

Indiana bench (points scored)

Brian Sloan (0)

Jamal Meeks (0)

Indiana Coach: Bob Knight

1989 illini

Illini Coach Lou Henson with Nick Anderson (#25) and Kenny Battle after their 1989 Regional Final victory *photo courtesy of Bleacher Report

March 12, 1989 – (#9)North Carolina Tarheels 77, (#7)Duke Blue Devils 74

For the second straight year these two teams were facing each other for a third time in the ACC Championship Game.  With 6 meetings in two seasons, these teams were surely getting sick of each other, and the animosity came out in this game.

Duke had won 4 of the previous 5 meetings and had won the 1988 ACC Championship against Carolina.  But the victory still stinging on the Carolina minds was when Duke beat them at Chapel Hill a week earlier and had overtaken Carolina for a higher seed in the ACC tournament.  Duke was a 2 seed while UNC was a 4 seed.

Neither team had any trouble getting to the final game.  In fact, any team that won a game in the 1989 ACC tournament had no trouble.  The closest margin was Duke defeating 3-seeded Virginia 69-58 in the Semifinals.  Duke had defeated Wake Forest 88-64 the previous day while UNC took out Georgia Tech 77-62 and then bottom-seeded Maryland 88-58 while coach Bob Wade recovered from his mild heart attack in the hospital.

But the other thing weighing on North Carolina minds was that they had not won an ACC Championship (or had gone to the Final Four) since their National Championship season of 1982.  Senior Jeff Lebo made sure to get the Tarheels off to a good start in this game by nailing three early jumpers.  It was 20-6 at one point until Duke got back into the game with an 11-2 run.

Duke cut it to 25-23 before Kevin Madden got the bounce on a pull-up from the baseline.  Then J.R. Reid got his first basket on a baseline turnaround.  When Madden fed Pete Chilcutt for a layup, the lead was back to eight.  But then Rick Fox committed his 3rd foul and Duke cut back into the lead, highlighted by a Quin Snyder touch pass to Christian Laettner for a slam after Danny Ferry fed Snyder in low.

It was 37-35 in the final minute after Phil Henderson found a wide-open Ferry for a layup, but at the last second, Steve Bucknall found Reid for a layup and the halftime score was: North Carolina 39, Duke 35.

The Tarheels increased their lead back to six helped out by a Scott Williams three-point play.  Williams was the subject of some animosity from Coach K early in the 2nd half.  Krzyzewski reportedly yelled at Williams to stop playing so dirty.  Dean Smith yelled back at Krzyzewski not to talk to his players like that.  Krzyzewski reportedly yelled back audibly “Hey Dean, fuck you.”

Rick Fox got his 4th foul and Duke got back into the game when Ferry, twice, found Alaa Abdelnaby (who was back from his suspension) for layups.  Duke had several chances to lead but their three-point marksmanship was deserting them, especially in the case of Quin Snyder.  A glaring example though was when John Smith missed a wide-open three and Robert Brickey committed his 4th foul on the rebound.

A few minutes later there was a scuffle in which Phil Henderson picked up a technical.  Jeff Lebo went 1-for-2 on those free throws, his one miss broke a 41-consecutive free throw made streak.  After Lebo’s free throw, Laettner hit two from the line at the 10:50 mark to tie the game at 52.  Soon after J.R. Reid hit two free throws, both teams went cold.  It took until the 8:39 mark (and a 4th foul on Lebo) for a point to be put on the board, a Kevin Madden free throw to give the Tarheels a 55-52 lead.

Henderson tied it with a three but Williams’ putback gave Carolina the advantage again.  Williams twice in a two-minute stretch re-injured an ailing shoulder but came back both times.  Duke took their first lead of the game at 59-57 when John Smith hit two free throws.

But senior Steve Bucknall came right back with a runner off the glass and a foul.  Then Bucknall got a steal at the other end and eventually Reid put back his own miss to give UNC a 62-59 lead.  Williams then drew a blocking foul (his 4th) and hit his head on the floor.  Ferry cut it to one with two free throws.

The scoring went back-and-forth, literally, for the next minute until Williams fouled out at the 2:44 mark.  Brickey then split a pair of free throws to tie the game at 66.  After another minute of action with no scoring, Lebo found Bucknall on a cut.  Steve scored and was fouled.  The three-point play gave Carolina the lead for good.

Ferry and Snyder missed tying three-point attempts but the Tarheels couldn’t increase their lead until the 1:02 mark when Bucknall hit two free throws.  Fox then fouled out after hitting Snyder.  Quin’s two free throws cut it to 71-68 before the Duke pressure defense forced a UNC turnover.

It was now Smith and Henderson’s turn to miss game-tying three-point attempts.  But Laettner grabbed Henderson’s miss and was fouled with 32 seconds to play.  Christian split his free throws.  Ferry then fouled King Rice with 29 seconds to play.  Rice, who had missed the tying free throw the previous week, nailed both ends of the 1-and-1 for some vengeance and a four-point lead.

Ferry’s three bounced over the top of the backboard and the game looked finished.  Bucknall and Rice each hit two more free throws but Duke cut it to 77-74 on a Laettner three and used their last timeout at the 3 second mark.  Snyder then fouled Rice before the ball was inbounded.  With one free throw, Rice could have fully gotten vengeance for his miss in the final regular season game.

But King was short on the front end of the 1-and-1.  Ferry got the rebound, but with no timeouts, he would to throw up a heave from the other foul line.  It hit the back of the rim.  While it was much too close for Carolina’s comfort, they had held on to win their first ACC Championship in 7 years and celebrated like so.

But, in what almost soured the victory, North Carolina was sent to Atlanta and then Lexington, Kentucky as a #2 seed in the Southeast Regional.  Duke was sent to Greensboro, North Carolina and then East Rutherford, New Jersey as a #2 seed in the East Regional.  Dean Smith would argue that Carolina deserved to go where Duke went as a result of this victory.  It may not have mattered except that Carolina ran into a hot team from the Big Ten with a new coach at the start of the NCAA tournament.

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Kevin Madden (12) – Small Forward

Steve Bucknall (10) – Power Forward

J.R. Reid (14) – Center

Jeff Lebo (13) – Point Guard

Rick Fox (11) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

Scott Williams (11)

King Rice (4)

Pete Chilcutt (2)

Hubert Davis (0)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

Duke starters (points scored)

Danny Ferry (14) – Small Forward

Robert Brickey (5) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (15) – Center

Quin Snyder (4) – Point Guard

Phil Henderson (16) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

John Smith (10)

Alaa Abdelnaby (8)

Greg Koubek (2)

Clay Buckley (0)

Brian Davis (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

UNC-vs-Duke-1989

J.R. Reid and North Carolina finally got the better of Danny Ferry and Duke in the 1989 ACC Championship Game *photo courtesy of Peach State College Sports

March 16, 1989 – East Regional 1st round: (#14)Siena Saints 80, (#3)Stanford Cardinal 78

There were a few firsts in this particular NCAA tournament game in Greensboro, North Carolina.  The Siena Saints, in their 51st season of existence, were making their first ever NCAA tournament appearance.  While Stanford wasn’t making their first ever appearance, it took the Cardinal almost the amount of 51 seasons to get back.  Their last appearance was when they won the 1942 NCAA championship.  So Stanford, at the moment, was the only team who hadn’t lost an NCAA tournament game.

Siena had gone 16-1 in their first season in the North Atlantic Conference and survived Boston University by one point in the conference tournament final to earn a berth.  Stanford had gone 13-2 in their final 15 games of the regular season to finish at 26-6.  Their two losses were to Arizona, who they had beaten earlier in this post, including a 73-51 drubbing in the Pac-10 tournament final.

There were three things going against Stanford for this game.  The first was that this game in the Eastern time zone was starting at 2:30, which was 11:30 am in the Pacific time zone.  The second was that the Cardinal seemed nervous early on and one wondered if they had been reminded over and over again recently that this was the school’s first tournament game in 47 years.  The third was Siena themselves, most namely their press.

The Saints were led by their back court.  The point guard was 5’11” sophomore Marc Brown and the shooting guard was junior Jeff Robinson.  Each averaged over 19 points per game.  The only other Saint in double figures was senior center Steve McCoy.  The coach was Mike Deane in his 3rd season.  Deane would go on to coach Marquette and Lamar to NCAA tournaments as well.

Although the Siena press forced turnovers, they couldn’t exactly take advantage.  A Todd Lichti basket on a Robinson goaltend tied the game at 10.  But Lichti, the All-American, was injured on the play and had to go out of the game.  He did come back a few minutes later and Stanford took a 17-16 lead.

But then Marc Brown hit a pull-up from the top of the key to kick off a run.  Brown hit a three and a coast-to-coast layup to finish a 9-0 run and put Siena up 25-17.  But Stanford responded with a 17-5 run capped off by a Lichti three-pointer and two free throws from Adam Keefe.  Robinson hit a three and Brown drove for a score.  Then Brown found reserve sophomore Steve Downey for a slam late in the half.  But a three from Cardinal point guard Terry Taylor tied the game at 37 with time running out in the half.  The score stayed that way after the buzzer.

Stanford started off the 2nd half well with a 6-3 run.  But then the Siena back court took over.  Robinson’s runner got the roll.  Brown’s wing pull-up in transition gave the Saints the lead.  Brown then penetrated and found Robinson for a three from the top.  Then Brown stole a Taylor pass to Howard Wright against the press.  Brown then pulled up in transition and nailed a three.  Robinson followed with a long three and Stanford was down 53-43 and had to call a timeout with 16:11 left.

Siena increased their lead as Wright didn’t help Stanford by missing four free throws.  A three-point play from Downey put the Saints up 61-45.  Stanford seemed in further trouble as senior big man Eric Reveno committed his 4th foul on the play.

But then Wright kicked out to reserve Scott Meinert for a three.  On the next possession, Taylor swung the ball to Lichti for a corner three.  Wright then got the bounce on a turnaround from the post.  Lichti followed with a pull-up three in transition and, just like that, Stanford was back to within 61-56 with 9:54 to go.

Siena was able to maintain a 66-60 lead before Adam Keefe put back a Meinert miss.  Taylor then stripped the ball from Marc Brown and took it to the other end for a layup.  Taylor then got a steal from Robinson and Lichti slammed it on the break to tie the game at 66.  But Robinson came back with his 6th three-pointer to give the Saints a three-point lead.

Each teams’ big men got into foul trouble in the late going.  But the one Siena big guy who wasn’t was Steve McCoy (the third double figure scorer for the Saints that season), who had not scored.  But he hit two big baskets late to put Siena up 76-73 and foul out Reveno.  But a banker from Adam Keefe and the 5th foul on Downey tied the game with 1:45 to go.

Marc Brown’s pull-up from the elbow 20 seconds later gave Siena the lead again at 78-76.  Brown had a chance to ice it after Lichti missed a three with under 1:00 to go.  But Marc missed the front end of a 1-and-1.  He had another chance after a Stanford turnover but missed a front end again.  Eric Fleury, who had come into the game for Downey, rebounded the miss for Siena but couldn’t connect on the putback and then fouled Keefe when he went after the rebound again.

The freshman Keefe, who would enjoy the most NBA success of any 1989 Stanford Cardinal, tied the game with 34 seconds to go by nailing both ends of a 1-and-1.  Siena held the ball for the last shot and got the ball to Marc Brown.  Brown was isolated against Lichti and blew by him.  As Brown went up for a runner, Lichti contacted him in the head with 3 seconds left.

Brown, after missing two straight 1-and-1’s, nailed both free throws.  The upset was then complete when Taylor banged a three-quarter length shot off the backboard.  Siena celebrated as if they won the championship, and why not?  They had become the lowest seed that made it to the 2nd round of the 1989 NCAA tournament.

They could not make it past 6th seeded Minnesota (who would make a tournament run in 1990) in the next round as Brown was held to a 4-for-20 shooting performance.  Siena’s next NCAA tournament appearance came in 1999 and their next victory in the tournament came in 2008.

For Stanford, their next tournament appearance was in 1992 when Keefe was a senior.  They lost in the 1st round again, this time as a 12-seed.  But as the 90’s dragged on, Mike Montgomery would start to build a power in Palo Alto.  A power that probably won’t go on another 47 year NCAA tournament drought.

Siena starters (points scored)

Mike Brown (5) – Small Forward

Monty Henderson (2) – Power Forward

Steve McCoy (5) – Center

Marc Brown (32) – Point Guard

Jeff Robinson (20) – Shooting Guard

Siena bench (points scored)

Tom Huerter (8)

Steve Downey (8)

Bruce Schroeder (0)

Eric Fleury (0)

Andy Grazulis (0)

Siena Coach: Mike Deane

Stanford starters (points scored)

Andrew Vlahov (2) – Small Forward

Howard Wright (8) – Power Forward

Eric Reveno (9) – Center

Terry Taylor (11) – Point Guard

Todd Lichti (17) – Shooting Guard

Stanford bench (points scored)

Adam Keefe (22)

Scott Meinert (5)

Brian McSweeney (2)

Deshon Wingate (2)

Stanford Coach: Mike Montgomery

marc brown

The 5’11” Marc Brown led Siena to a 1st round upset of Stanford in 1989 *photo courtesy of Amazon

March 16, 1989 – Southeast Regional 1st round: (#16)East Tennessee State Buccaneers 71, (#1)Oklahoma Sooners 72

While the Stanford/Siena game was finishing up, one of the scores that flashed on the screen said “East Tennessee State 31, Oklahoma 18.”  It was casually mentioned that that was a surprise.  It was a big surprise!  Since 64 teams were allowed in the NCAA tournament in 1985, there were a few times that the #16 seed played the #1 seed tough.  But in 1989, we not only almost saw one 16-seed win but two!

Oklahoma may have been the most surprising of the #1 seeds after not looking good in the Big 8 tournament and losing in the Finals to Missouri 98-86.  But the Sooners still came in at 28-5 and had two All-Americans in seniors Stacey King and Mookie Blaylock.  They had also been to the title game the year before but lost three starters from that team.  Most of the rest of the team was filled with junior college transfers.  The only 4-year players that played regularly were King, sophomore Terrence Mullins, junior Tony Martin and freshman Damon Patterson.

Mullins, King and Blaylock started along with William Davis and Tyrone Jones for this particular game.  Reserves included Martin, Patterson, Skeeter Henry, Andre Wiley, and Mike Bell.  Oklahoma was #1 for three weeks in the middle of the season and were 24-3.  But a loss at Missouri started some lackadaisical basketball in which they only beat a weak Oklahoma State team by 3 at home and then beat 7-21 Colorado in double overtime in the Big 8 Quarterfinals.  It culminated with another loss to Missouri in the title game.

East Tennessee State burst some bubbles in 1989 as they entered the tournament with a 20-10 record and a 7-7 4th place finish in the Southern Conference regular season.  But they were invited to the tournament after beating Citadel, Chattanooga and Marshall in the conference tournament.  The Buccaneers were coached by future NC State coach Les Robinson and were a young team.

They started three sophomores and two freshmen.  The sophomores were led by 5’7″ point guard Mister Keith Jennings (his nickname was actually Mister).  Jennings was the only Buccaneer to eventually see the NBA.  Jennings was teamed with classmates Greg Dennis and Alvin West in the starting lineup.  Those three were the top scorers for the Bucs with the center Dennis leading the way.  The freshmen were forwards Calvin Talford and Marty Story.

Off the bench were more young players in junior Chad Keller and sophomore Major Geer.  Talford got the Bucs going with the first two buckets but they took a 12-6 lead when West nailed back-to-back threes.

A major advantage for East Tennessee State was the crowd.  Not only were they hoping for the upset but this game was at Vanderbilt, so East Tennessee State fanatics didn’t have to travel out of state to watch their team play.

Dennis got going midway through the 1st half to put the Bucs up double digits.  The only answer for Oklahoma was King, who scored 10 of their 18 points at the point where the score flashed during the Siena/Stanford broadcast.  Dennis also had 10 points at that juncture.

ETSU’s biggest lead was at 35-18 when Talford got a steal and layup.  But after a Dennis jumper made the score 39-22, the Buccaneers went cold.  Oklahoma, who averaged over 100 points per game, wasn’t burning the nets either.  But they were able to carve out a 9-0 run over the last 4 minutes plus, culminated by a King jumper at the buzzer, to cut the lead to 39-31 at the half.

But the Bucs warmed it back up to start the 2nd half with a 9-2 run to put them back up by 15.  King and Blaylock scored 8 straight points but Jennings found Keller for a jumper in the lane to break the run.  But the big men for Oklahoma were starting to take control.  Not only was King scoring but William Davis got it going on the offensive boards to cut into the lead.

The Sooners cut it as close as five before Major Geer hit a long three at the end of the shot clock.  But Oklahoma maintained their deficit to within 65-59 and were not blinking.  But neither were the Bucs as West penetrated and found Keller for a layup and a foul.

But, just like the first half, the Buccaneers started to go cold as time was running out.  Oklahoma continually cut into the lead and were down 69-68 with 2:20 left.  Then ETSU turned the ball over and the Sooners took their first lead of the game when Davis tipped in his own miss.  But then Blaylock committed his 4th foul and Jennings hit two free throws with 1:31 left to put the Buccaneers back up 71-70.

But Blaylock one-upped Jennings by driving baseline past him, scoring and drawing Mister’s 5th foul.  Blaylock missed the free throw with 1:21 to go and Oklahoma’s lead was one.  Dennis back-rimmed a jumper in the lane but ETSU got the possession back courtesy of the held ball possession arrow.  Geer then came up short on a foul line jumper and Dennis missed a tip.

Oklahoma finally got the ball and Blaylock was fouled with 8 seconds left.  Mookie missed the front end of the 1-and-1 and ETSU was able to get a timeout before Oklahoma got a steal on an outlet pass.

With 4 seconds left, Keller threw a pass to West in the back court against defensive pressure.  West could only get two steps beyond half court before launching a prayer.  It came up with nothing but air and Oklahoma survived, for the time being.

They looked like themselves again in a 2nd round game against Louisiana Tech in winning 124-81 but lost in the Sweet 16 to 5th seeded Virginia 86-80.  But the Sooners could thank the inside play of Stacey King as well as Blaylock and Davis (who combined for 5 first half points) coming alive in the 2nd half for not being the first 1-seed to lose to a 16-seed.

But this would be a stepping stone for East Tennessee State.  They were a 13-seed in 1990 and a 10-seed in 1991.  But each time they couldn’t register an NCAA tournament victory.  But, as a 14-seed in 1992 (with Dennis and Talford still on the team), they registered their biggest upset.

East Tennessee State starters (points scored)

Calvin Talford (14) – Small Forward

Marty Story (4) – Power Forward

Greg Dennis (20) – Center

Keith Jennings (8) – Point Guard

Alvin West (12) – Shooting Guard

East Tennessee State bench (points scored)

Chad Keller (7)

Major Geer (6)

Michael Woods (0)

Rodney Jones (0)

East Tennessee State Coach: Les Robinson

Oklahoma starters (points scored)

Terrence Mullins (8) – Small Forward

William Davis (14) – Power Forward

Stacey King (28) – Center

Mookie Blaylock (15) – Point Guard

Tyrone Jones (3) – Shooting Guard

Oklahoma bench (points scored)

Skeeter Henry (0)

Damon Patterson (2)

Andre Wiley (2)

Mike Bell (0)

Tony Martin (0)

Oklahoma Coach: Billy Tubbs

keith jennings

Keith “Mister” Jennings almost led 16th seeded East Tennessee State to an upset of top-seeded Oklahoma in 1989 *photo courtesy of tumblr

March 17, 1989 – Southeast Regional 1st round: (#11)South Alabama Jaguars 86, (#6)Alabama Crimson Tide 84

Probably a game that only people from Alabama remember but a game-winner was featured.  The South Alabama Jaguars have not been heard from much since.  To date, this is their last NCAA tournament victory.

The Jaguars had won the Sun Belt Conference regular season and tournament title and had scored over 100 points in many games, including the last two games of their tournament.  The Jaguars featured young coach Ronnie Arrow and were led by the back court of seniors Jeff Hodge and Junie Lewis.  There was Venezuelan forward Gabriel Estaba along with other key players such as John Jimmerson, Phillip Darden and Terrance Brodnick.  But in this game; Hodge, Lewis and Estaba were the key factors.

Alabama was primarily a football school.  But since taking over in 1980, head coach Wimp Sanderson had routinely taken the Crimson Tide to the NCAA tournament.  They had also won two SEC championships with players such as Ennis Whatley, Buck Johnson and Derrick McKey leading the way.  Now they had a freshman who would arguably go on to have the best NBA career of any Crimson Tide player.  That player was Robert Horry.  But he wasn’t quite Big Shot Bob yet as he averaged 6.5 points per game as a freshman.

The key players were the big men; senior Michael Ansley and junior David Benoit, as well as the guards; senior Alvin Lee, sophomore Gary Waites and junior Keith Askins.  The Crimson Tide finished tied for 2nd in the regular season in the SEC (one game behind Florida) but beat the Gators in the conference title game to win their 3rd championship of the decade and their first of three straight SEC championships.

Both teams came into the game with similar records.  South Alabama was 22-8 while Alabama was 23-7 and the pride of Alabama was certainly on the line in this 1st round NCAA tournament game.

The Crimson Tide started it fast as Waites hit a three and Horry rebound-slammed a miss to put them up 6-0.  Alvin Lee hit two jumpers and a three-point play from Waites put the Tide up 13-6.  The lead increased with three-pointers from Lee and Horry and then Ansley’s first basket put ‘Bama up 23-12.

Estaba kept the Jaguars within striking distance with 15 first half points but the back court of Hodge and Lewis were putting up blanks.  Meanwhile, most of ‘Bama’s offense late in the first half was Waites finding Ansley down low for baskets.  The Crimson Tide’s leading scorer hit for 12 first half points as the SEC champions took a 49-33 lead into the half.

Hodge and Lewis started to get inside and on the boards in the 2nd half.  As a result, they started to get going with putbacks.  But Ansley and Lee kept Alabama ahead by double digits despite Benoit and Horry being saddled with fouls.

But a wing jumper in transition by Hodge finally cut the lead to eight and, later, a three-point play by Estaba (after rebounding a missed free throw) cut the ‘Bama lead to 59-53.  The Tide were able to maintain their lead despite Askins now getting into foul trouble with 4.  But when Lewis found Hodge for a three from the wing, the lead was cut to 68-66.  Incredibly, that was South Alabama’s first three-pointer of the game, even with cutting a 16-point halftime deficit to 2.

After Brodnick out-raced Horry to a loose ball, the Jaguars had a chance to tie it.  But Estaba split his pair of free throws and Horry fed Ansley for a layup and a 70-67 lead.  Ansley committed his 4th foul a few minutes later but Sanderson elected to keep him in the game as Alabama stayed ahead.

But with the Crimson Tide up 76-72 with 4:22 to go, Ansley committed his 5th foul.  Alabama didn’t show the effects immediately as Waites drove in for a banker to give him a career-high 17 points.  Then Askins answered a Hodge three with one of his own after Lee found him in the corner with a cross-court bounce pass from the baseline.

But the Jaguars cut it to 81-80 with 2:03 to go.  Then Estaba stole an entry pass to Horry and drove past Robert at the other end for a banker and a foul.  The three-point play gave the Jaguars an 83-81 lead with 1:37 left.

Horry did get an offensive rebound at the other end which eventually allowed Alvin Lee to give the Tide an 84-83 lead with under a minute to go with a three from the wing.  Hodge missed a baseline jumper at the other end but rebounded his miss and South Alabama finally got a timeout with 34 seconds to go.

After Lewis and Hodge controlled the ball most of the possession, the Jaguars got another timeout with 10 seconds to go after a ball went out of bounds off of Askins foot.  Lewis was then able to handle a tough inbounds pass on the baseline.  After gathering his berrings, he was able to kick out to a wide open Jeff Hodge at the top.

Hodge nailed a three with 4 seconds left to give South Alabama an 86-84 lead and Alabama didn’t use a timeout.  They threw it long to Askins, who had a good shot in the lane but came up short.

South Alabama had won the 1989 Alabama basketball title and were moving on to the 2nd round.  They would lose to new interim coach Steve Fisher and Michigan in that 2nd round.  Michigan had survived a scare from Xavier in the 1st round and now Fisher was 2-0 as a coach.  He’ll have a chance to go 3-0 later in this post.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s loss ended a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad two days for the SEC.  The conference went 0-5 in 1st round games.  Despite Alabama advancing to the Sweet 16 the next two seasons and LSU signing on Shaquille O’Neal, the SEC wouldn’t make a deep tournament run until 1992 when their basketball power was back.

South Alabama starters (points scored)

John Jimmerson (3) – Small Forward

Gabe Estaba (26) – Power Forward

Phillip Darden (4) – Center

Junie Lewis (15) – Point Guard

Jeff Hodge (29) – Shooting Guard

South Alabama bench (points scored)

Terrance Brodnick (5)

Neil Smith (2)

Derek Turner (2)

Darrell Nelson (0)

South Alabama Coach: Ronnie Arrow

Alabama starters (points scored)

Robert Horry (7) – Small Forward

David Benoit (6) – Power Forward

Michael Ansley (25) – Center

Gary Waites (17) – Point Guard

Alvin Lee (18) – Shooting Guard

Alabama bench (points scored)

Keith Askins (11)

Melvin Cheatum (0)

James Sanders (0)

Marcus Webb (0)

Alabama Coach: Wimp Sanderson

south-alabama-jags-beat-alabama-1989-2573d18436e38b28

Jeff Hodge’s three-pointer that sunk Alabama is in the air (Hodge is to the right of the picture, hidden mostly by #41 Keith Askins) *photo courtesy of AL.com

March 17, 1989 – East Regional 1st round: (#16) Princeton Tigers 49, (#1)Georgetown Hoyas 50

Georgetown was a hot team coming into the NCAA tournament.  They had won 8 of their last 9 games and had cruised through the Big East tournament, culminated by beating Syracuse for a second time 88-79 in the title game.

Now they were traveling to Big East territory in Providence, Rhode Island and were 20-point favorites against Pete Carril’s Princeton Tigers.  Carril was in his 22nd season as coach and had only 1 losing season.  He led Princeton to the 1975 NIT Championship and featured a patient offense with a lot of back cuts.  Princeton’s strategy in any game was to use at least 30 seconds of the shot clock and try to get a layup on a backdoor cut.

The Tigers came into the game at 19-7 and had won the Ivy League with a 11-3 mark.  They were last in Division 1 in scoring at 57.3 points per game but held opponents to 52.4, which was 1st.  The Tigers “star” was senior and Ivy League player of the year Bob Scrabis.  The rest of the team was young as, of the other 6 players who played significantly, half of them were freshmen.  Two others were sophomores.

The junior was a reserve who was a factor in this game in forward Matt Lapin.  The rest of the lineup was filled with center Kit Mueller and guards George Leftwich and Jerry Doyle.

As nice as the Princeton team was with their system, they didn’t have anybody to contend with Alonzo Mourning.  That would prove to be their fatal downfall.

The Tigers challenged Mourning early and got three baskets (two on Mourning goaltends) to take a 6-2 lead.  But the pace was a Princeton pace and the game was slowed down considerably (although the Big East did have some defensive struggles).

A three from Scrabis broke an 8-8 tie and a Lapin jumper put the Tigers up 15-10 at the 7:51 mark.  Princeton steadily increased its lead with its passing and cutting offense.  But Georgetown never trailed by more than 8 in the 1st half thanks to Mourning and contributions off the bench from Mark Tillmon and Bobby Winston.

Those two guards picked up the slack for Big East player of the year Charles Smith.  Smith was scoreless in the 1st half and committed a dumb intentional foul away from the ball with 1 second left in the half to help Princeton grab a 29-21 halftime lead.

A Lapin feed to a cutting Doyle gave Princeton their biggest lead at 10 to start the 2nd half.  But Georgetown started to play more seriously, like Princeton was a worthy foe.  Mourning asserted himself on the boards with three putbacks.  Georgetown, at one point in the 2nd half, held a 17-1 rebounding edge for the half.

But the Tigers were able to keep their lead with two three-pointers.  But a three from Tillmon finally cut the lead to 37-35.  Then Smith got his first basket on the break, although he committed an offensive foul on the play.  But the Hoyas took their first lead when Winston found Sam Jefferson for a layup on the break.

Scrabis and Smith traded breakaway baskets before Lapin nailed a three for Princeton to give them a 43-41 lead.  Smith then committed his 4th foul on an offensive foul with 5:28 to go.

Mourning eventually tied it with a layup put the Tigers regained the lead when Mueller found Leftwich on a cut for a layup.  Mourning then got the ball back inside and was fouled hard by Lapin.  A frustrated Mourning hit Mueller, who was helping out, with an elbow.  This didn’t help Alonzo make any friends in the crowd, who was 100% pro-Princeton with the Tigers in the game this late.

Mourning hit the two free throws despite the boos.  But Princeton regained a 47-45 lead when Lapin found Mueller on a cut.  The Tigers had two chances to increase their lead but uncharacteristically showed impatience on their possessions.  Mourning blocked a transition layup attempt by Doyle and a runner from Tillmon tied the game at 47.

Mueller fed Doyle on a cut for another Princeton lead but Mueller fouled Mourning on the entry pass.  With 1:40 to go, Alonzo tied it with two free throws.  Mourning then got a steal after Georgetown deflected a cross court pass.  The Hoyas had the ball with under a minute to go and ran down the clock.

Finally, Tillmon took and missed a jumper.  Mourning got a piece of the rebound and Tillmon recovered but missed again in the lane.  Mourning kept tipping that rebound to himself as no Princeton player could match his height or jumping ability.  Finally, Alonzo got control and was fouled by Scrabis with 23 seconds to go.

Mourning nailed the front end of the 1-and-1 but missed the back end.  So Princeton had a chance to shoot a final shot and go for the upset of the decade.  The Tigers called a timeout with 15 seconds to go.

They set up Scrabis at the top beyond the three-point line.  But Mourning jumped out and blocked it.  Georgetown deflected the ball out of bounds with 1 second left, giving Princeton a final chance.  But Mueller threw up an airball as he tried to shoot over Alonzo.  The crowd and Princeton players (and Carril) cried for a foul on Mourning to no avail (I’m settling it, Mourning DID NOT foul him).

Princeton had joined East Tennessee State as an almost answer to a trivia question (that still can’t be answered), who were the 16-seeds that defeated a 1-seed?  Princeton would make the tournament in the next three seasons (as high as an 8-seed in 1991) but could not spring that 1st round upset.  They would get another chance in Carril’s final season in 1996.

Princeton starters (points scored)

Bob Scrabis (15) – Small Forward

Matt Eastwick (0) – Power Forward

Kit Mueller (9) – Center

George Leftwich (2) – Point Guard

Jerry Doyle (8) – Shooting Guard

Princeton bench (points scored)

Matt Lapin (12)

Troy Hottenstein (3)

Princeton Coach: Pete Carril

Georgetown starters (points scored)

Jaren Jackson (5) – Small Forward

John Turner (2) – Power Forward

Alonzo Mourning (21) – Center

Charles Smith (4) – Point Guard

Dwayne Bryant (0) – Shooting Guard

Georgetown bench (points scored)

Mark Tillmon (8)

Bobby Winston (8)

Sam Jefferson (2)

Georgetown Coach: John Thompson

mourning block vs princeton

Alonzo Mourning blocks Bob Scrabis’ game-winning attempt as top-seeded Georgetown survived a scare from 16th seeded Princeton *photo courtesy of Princeton Alumni Weekly

March 19, 1989 – East Regional 2nd round: (#5)NC State Wolfpack 102, (#4)Iowa Hawkeyes 96 (2OT)

The Iowa Hawkeyes were that close to becoming the highest seed on the top side of the East Regional bracket.  As it was, the winner of this game would take on Georgetown.  Iowa had had a mini-scare in the 1st round against Rutgers, but pulled away in the late going as senior B.J. Armstrong had 6 three-pointers and 35 points.

Armstrong and fellow seniors Ed Horton and Roy Marble led the way for Iowa, coached by Dr. Tom Davis, in 1989.  The rest of the starting lineup was filled with junior transfer from Colorado, Matt Bullard and center Les Jepsen.  The rest of the roster was young and, to some degree, troublesome.  Freshman forward Ray Thompson was ruled academically ineligible by Iowa for the tournament.  Fellow freshman and guard Brian Garner would run into similar problems the next season.  Other reserves were also freshmen in swingmen Wade Lookingbill and James Moses.

Iowa had 9 losses in the regular season.  8 of them came in the tough Big Ten as the Hawkeyes finished 4th.  But they did gain some confidence going into the tournament by defeating Big Ten champion Indiana in the last regular season game and senior day for Armstrong, Horton and Marble.  Their 1st round victory was their 23rd win of the season.

NC State, after losing to Murray State in the 1st round in 1988 as a #3 seed, had no trouble with South Carolina as sophomore scorer Rodney Monroe led them with 22 points.  Monroe would out-do that performance and perhaps any other at NC State so far with his game against Iowa.

It started when fellow sophomore and guard Chris Corchiani found him for a three in transition to give Jim Valvano and his team an early 6-2 lead.  When Horton tipped in a Jepsen miss, Iowa cut the Wolfpack’s lead to 7-6.

But then the State front court of Brian Howard, Chucky Brown and Avie Lester each got field goals to put the Wolfpack ahead 13-6.  Then after a timeout, Howard followed up a Monroe miss.  Monroe then beat the shot clock with a baseline jumper.  Lester found Brown for a slam.  Monroe hit another pull-up on a 4-on-1 break and Iowa called another timeout, down 21-6.  Incredibly, the run wasn’t done.  Brown and Corchiani hit field goals to make the score 25-6 NC State.

Finally, a baseline jumper from Marble broke the 18-0 run.  Marble and the two other seniors led the Hawkeyes back.  Horton was the biggest factor as NC State couldn’t seem to find an answer for him down low.  Armstrong scored and assisted while Marble started the rally with 7 quick points.  Iowa chipped the Wolfpack’s lead to 37-27 and then made their big run.

Horton hit two free throws to bring his 1st half total to 11 points.  Then Horton and back-to-back plays found Lookingbill for layups.  Then Horton tipped a rebound out to Armstrong for a breakaway layup.  Armstrong then got a steal off the press and found Marble for a layup.  This tied the game at 37.  Each team traded two field goals to end the half (culminated by an Armstrong runner in the lane with 2 seconds left) and the game was tied at 41 going into the locker room.

The teams traded jabs for the entire 2nd half and it seemed that Horton and Monroe was doing most of the punching.  There were mini-runs, but nothing like the first half.  The Wolfpack went on a 8-0 run to go ahead 51-45.  But Iowa responded to that with a 9-0 spurt.

And the more it went as both teams started to experience some foul trouble.  Eventually, NC State re-took a 5-point lead when Corchiani nailed a three.  But with the Wolfpack still up 71-66, Corchiani committed his 4th foul.  He stayed in but Iowa cut the lead to 71-70 when Marble lobbed to Bullard for a layup with 3:15 to go.  There wasn’t any more scoring until about 1:30 to go when Garner dribbled to the corner and hit Horton with a bounce pass inside for a layup and a foul.  The three-point play put Iowa up 73-71.

But with just over 1:00 to go, Monroe hit a pull-up in the lane to tie the game.  Iowa ran down the clock and got a break when NC State kicked the ball out of bounds with 25 seconds left.  Because the ball was kicked, the shot clock restarted and Iowa could grab the last shot.  Valvano wouldn’t give them the chance.  Just like his strategy in many tournament games in 1983, Valvano decided to foul the weakest foul shooter when he got the ball.

In Iowa’s case, it was the freshman Garner with 21 seconds to go.  But unlike almost all of NC State’s opponents during their magical run of 1983, Garner coolly nailed both free throws.  But the Wolfpack had an answer named Monroe.  Rodney went 1-on-1 against Armstrong and took him to the baseline.  He up-faked B.J. and got a clear look.  The ball went in with 4 seconds left and Iowa ran out the clock.  The game was going into overtime.

Both teams had the lead in the 1st overtime but NC State regained it at 81-79 when Corchiani nailed a three with 1:36 left.  Marble came back with a drive, a score, and the 4th foul on NC State senior Chucky Brown.  Marble missed the free throw but Bullard got the rebound and the Hawkeyes had another chance to lead.  They took it at 83-81 when Marble hit a pull-up from the foul line with 39 seconds to go.

Again, NC State held for the last shot.  Again, they went to Monroe to go 1-on-1.  This time, Iowa rushed a double team at him but Rodney took it to the left baseline this time.  He pulled up and got an inch of daylight and took advantage.  His pull-up went in again with 4 seconds left and again Iowa ran out the clock.  The Wolfpack legend of Rodney Monroe was alive and well.

Brown fouled out for the Wolfpack early in the 2nd overtime but Monroe’s three gave NC State the lead for good at 86-85.  Monroe’s driving double-pump banker (plus the foul) gave NC State a 91-87 lead and gave Rodney 35 points.  But his biggest dagger came with 1:18 to go after Iowa had cut the lead to two.  His three from the wing made it a 94-89 lead.  Bullard then missed a three and NC State sealed it up from the foul line.

After back-to-back seasons in the Regionals, Iowa couldn’t extend Armstrong, Horton, and Marble’s careers.  Dr. Tom Davis would make it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament only once more as a coach at Iowa.  That would be his last season in Iowa City.  To this point, the Hawkeyes haven’t advanced beyond the 2nd round since Davis left.

For Jim Valvano at NC State, this would be the last high point.  The Wolfpack lost to Georgetown in the Sweet 16 and Valvano’s troubles at NC State finally was too much in 1990.

NC State starters (points scored)

Brian Howard (16) – Small Forward

Chucky Brown (14) – Power Forward

Avie Lester (10) – Center

Chris Corchiani (16) – Point Guard

Rodney Monroe (40) – Shooting Guard

NC State bench (points scored)

Kelsey Weems (2)

Brian D’Amico (0)

Mickey Hinnant (4)

David Lee (0)

NC State Coach: Jim Valvano

Iowa starters (points scored)

Matt Bullard (8) – Small Forward

Ed Horton (32) – Power Forward

Les Jepsen (4) – Center

B.J. Armstrong (20) – Point Guard

Roy Marble (24) – Shooting Guard

Iowa bench (points scored)

Brian Garner (2)

Wade Lookingbill (6)

James Moses (0)

Iowa Coach: Tom Davis

North Carolina Wolfpack v Maryland Terrapins

Rodney Monroe’s 40 points (and two game-tying shots with 4 seconds left) led NC State to a 2nd round win over Iowa in 1989 *photo courtesy of The Big Lead

March 23, 1989 – Southeast Regional Semifinals: (#3)Michigan Wolverines 92, (#2)North Carolina Tarheels 87

The last of the pre-season top 11 teams to be introduced turned out to be the most important.  The Michigan Wolverines had started out as #3 in the nation and climbed to #2 as they won their first 14 games.  But then the Big Ten season started and Bill Frieder’s Wolverines were so-so.  They got it together late in the year to win 5 games in a row but ended the season getting blown out at home by Illinois.  Still, they finished 3rd in the Big Ten and grabbed a 3-seed in the Southeast Regional.

The Wolverines were led by senior All-American Glen Rice.  Rice’s scoring averaged had steadily climbed in his first 3 seasons, but as a senior, he hit for 25.6 points per game and shot just under 52% on three-pointers (making 99 of 192).  But for the past two seasons, Rice was not able to lead the Wolverines past North Carolina in the NCAA tournament.  In 1987, they lost to the Heels in the 2nd round and in 1988, the Sweet 16.

Most of the rest of Michigan’s roster were juniors and sophomores.  Two juniors started their careers as Prop 48 players, but point guard Rumeal Robinson and center Terry Mills had found their way and had become very good players.  Other juniors in the starting lineup was forward Loy Vaught and guard Mike Griffin.  Griffin was a defensive first player (to say the least, if he attempted a shot in a game it was a surprise) and was a role player.  The rest of the starters eventually found their way into the NBA.

A few sophomore reserves even found their way into the NBA for a cup of coffee.  There was 6th man and instant offense man Sean Higgins.  There was also guard Demetrius Calip.  The only other senior who saw any playing time was backup center Mark Hughes.

The Wolverines seemed primed for the tournament but then a funny thing happened three days before Michigan was to open against Xavier.  Word leaked out that coach Bill Frieder had accepted the coaching job at Arizona State.  Frieder was up front and announced it but planned to coach Michigan through the tournament.  But Athletic Director and legendary football coach Bo Schembechler wouldn’t see it that way.  He fired Frieder and announced that a Michigan man will coach Michigan.  With that, assistant Steve Fisher was promoted to interim head coach.

Fisher and the Wolverines survived Xavier in the 1st round 92-87 and then held off cinderella South Alabama 91-82 with a late run.  This brought them to another Sweet 16 matchup with North Carolina.

The Tarheels had defeated Southern and UCLA in their first two games but had some internal issues of their own.  The night before the UCLA game, J.R. Reid was a few minutes late for curfew.  The Tarheel seniors voted and decided to suspend Reid for the UCLA game.  They were able to survive the Bruins 88-81 as Kevin Madden, Steve Bucknall, Rick Fox, Scott Williams and Jeff Lebo all finished in double figures.

Both Michigan and North Carolina were high scoring offenses and each started out scalding hot.  Rice and Lebo nailed threes to open the game for their teams.  Rice, in fact, scored the first 8 Wolverine points.  Lebo scored 11 of UNC’s first 13.  With the Tarheels leading 13-12, Mills missed a turnaround jumper.  It was the first missed shot of the ball game.

Robinson committed two early fouls for the Wolverines but stayed in and continued to feed his teammates for baskets.  Reid came off the bench and gave the team a spark.  But Lebo and Rice led the way with 17 and 13 points, respectively, as North Carolina took a 32-29 lead.

The pace continued but North Carolina ran out to a 41-34 advantage after back-to-back baskets by Reid.  Fisher, perhaps sensing his team was tired, took a timeout that ended up helping the Wolverines with about 5:00 to go in the 1st half.  They cut the lead to 47-43 and then held the Tarheels scoreless for the last few minutes of the half.

Meanwhile, Rice hit a threefor his 16th point and Robinson fed Mills for a layup to give Michigan a 48-47 lead.  Then to end the half, Michigan got out on the break and Robinson fed Rice for a slam and a 50-47 halftime lead and a momentum spark for Michigan.

The teams continued to trade baskets in the 2nd half.  Reid continued to lead the way for North Carolina, in trying to reciprocate getting himself suspended, by dominating down low and getting the Michigan big men in foul trouble.  But big threes by Rice and Robinson kept the Wolverines right in it.  In fact, they took a 68-64 lead when Hughes put back a Calip airball.  Michigan then increased it to seven when Robinson made another three.

Michigan was able to keep its lead despite Vaught fouling out and Hughes picking up his 4th.  Rice and Robinson were again the main catalysts for Michigan.  But UNC kept chipping away and eventually tied it at 83 when Reid hit a turnaround jumper from the baseline with about 4:30 to go.  But Higgins penetrated and found Rice for his 7th three-pointer and an 86-83 Michigan lead.

Carolina cut the margin to 87-85 with 2:00 left but Scott Williams missed a chance to tie it from the post.  Then after Michigan called a timeout and Carolina got closer to the foul bonus, Higgins swung the ball to Rice in the corner beyond the three-point line.  With just over 1:00 to go, Rice launched and nailed his 8th three-pointer and the Wolverines took a 90-85 lead.

It didn’t quite ice the game as Bucknall found Reid for a layup and then Robinson missed the front end of a 1-and-1.  But Reid missed a turnaround from the post and Fox fouled Higgins with 27 seconds left.  Sean’s two free throws put Michigan up 92-87.

The game was finally iced after Kevin Madden missed two three-pointers and Reid fouled Mills with 4 seconds left.  Reid was then taken out of the game.  It would be his last moments in a North Carolina uniform.  Mills missed the front end but the game was over and Michigan had exorcised a demon of sorts by defeating the team that had beaten them the last two seasons.

Michigan would not get to take on the top seed in the Southeast Region as Oklahoma had lost to Virginia earlier that day.  The 5th seeded Cavaliers were no match for the Wolverines in the Regional Finals as Michigan won rather too easily 102-65.

Michigan would end up joining Illinois and Seton Hall in the Final Four.  But there was one more matchup to determine the fourth team.  It was the top two seeds in the East Regional, Georgetown and Duke.

Michigan starters (points scored)

Glen Rice (34) – Small Forward

Loy Vaught (4) – Power Forward

Terry Mills (16) – Center

Rumeal Robinson (17) – Point Guard

Mike Griffin (0) – Shooting Guard

Michigan bench (points scored)

Sean Higgins (14)

Demetrius Calip (2)

Mark Hughes (5)

Michigan Coach: Steve Fisher

North Carolina starters (points scored)

Kevin Madden (10) – Small Forward

Steve Bucknall (10) – Power Forward

Scott Williams (8) – Center

Jeff Lebo (19) – Point Guard

King Rice (4) – Shooting Guard

North Carolina bench (points scored)

J.R. Reid (26)

Rick Fox (8)

Pete Chilcutt (2)

North Carolina Coach: Dean Smith

fisher 1989

Steve Fisher had been named the interim coach of Michigan before the 1989 NCAA tournament.  He had improbably led them to the Final Four *photo courtesy of ESPN

March 26, 1989 – East Regional Final: (#2)Duke Blue Devils 85, (#1)Georgetown Hoyas 77

The Duke Blue Devils had not had much trouble in defeating South Carolina State, West Virginia and Minnesota in the 1st three rounds.  Coach K and his team had advanced to the Final Four in two of the past three seasons by winning the regional in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  They were back in East Rutherford in 1989 and for the second straight season, they took on a dominant freshman.

In 1988, Billy King had shut down Mark Macon as Duke beat Temple in the Regional Final.  For 1989, their challenge was Georgetown and Alonzo Mourning.  Billy King had graduated (and probably couldn’t do much with Alonzo anyway) but Duke had an outstanding freshman of their own.  Christian Laettner would go toe-to-toe with Mourning.

Georgetown had slightly easier times with Notre Dame and NC State after barely surviving Princeton in round 1.  Laettner started his attack by scoring on a 3rd shot to give Duke an early 6-2 lead.  The Blue Devils took an 11-4 advantage before Mourning and Charles Smith brought the Hoyas back with field goals.  Mark Tillmon came off the bench for a field goal and Smith found Dikembe Mutombo on the break for a slam to tie the game at 13.

Georgetown’s run continued as reserve Bobby Winston spun and drove down the lane for a score.  Tillmon hit again from the foul line to complete a 9-0 run and give John Thompson’s Hoyas a 17-13 lead.  Danny Ferry broke an 0-for-10 Duke streak with a baseline jumper.

But a Mourning putback and a Smith finger roll put Georgetown ahead 21-15.  The Hoyas’ biggest lead was seven but Laettner gave the Dukies a spark.  Christian hit two baskets (including one on a Mourning goaltend) and then Phil Henderson hit a three to tie the game at 29.

Laettner put Duke up 33-31 with a wing jumper and then 35-33 with a drive past Mourning and a left-handed finish in the lane.  Also in the impressive Laettner sequence was a blocked shot on Mourning.  Georgetown, however, took a 40-38 halftime lead when Tillmon hit a three with 5 seconds to go.

Georgetown maintained an early 46-42 lead in the 2nd half.  Despite Laettner going off, the Hoyas had held down Danny Ferry.  But he broke free for 6 points early in the 2nd half as Duke took a lead.  The lead grew to 50-46 when Laettner outletted to Robert Brickey for a breakaway slam.  Georgetown stayed in it for the moment and tied the game at 52.

But a Duke run started when Laettner got a steal in the backcourt and Quin Snyder finished with a banker.  Henderson then followed up a Brickey miss.  Ferry hit two free throws and Henderson got a basket on a John Turner goaltending.  Georgetown again stayed in it and cut the lead to 60-56 but then Phil Henderson produced perhaps his lifetime highlight.

Henderson drove down the lane and went up strong for a dunk.  Mourning challenged him but was to the left of the ball and Henderson finished an in-your-face slam that got the Duke crowd going as they chanted “in your face!”

Laettner then hit two free throws and then a wing jumper to put the Blue Devils up 66-56 with 7:55 to go.  Georgetown called a timeout.  It didn’t help much as Laettner got a breakaway after a Snyder outlet.  Later, Ferry fed Christian for a layup and a foul.  The three-point play put Duke up 75-61 and gave Laettner 23 points.

For this stretch, Thompson decided to go with four guards and put Mourning on the bench for stretches.  Initially, the four guards pressed the Blue Devils all over the court and quickly got Georgetown back into the game.  It started when Winston put back a Tillmon missed free throw and was fouled.  Winston missed the free throw too but Georgetown’s “big man” at the moment, Sam Jefferson, got the rebound and Charles Smith drove for a layup.

This flurry cut Duke’s lead to 75-66.  Smith then got a steal and layup off the press to further cut into the lead.  Tillmon followed with a steal and was fouled with 4:30 to go.  He missed the free throw but Dwayne Bryant got the rebound for Georgetown and Tillmon nailed a three.  The lead was down to 75-71 and Duke hadn’t even taken a shot in the last few minutes.

It continued as Smith got another steal and Snyder committed his 5th foul on Bryant with 3:22 to go.  Bryant hit two free throws to cut Duke’s lead to 75-73 and the senior Snyder faced the reality that his fouling out could be his last appearance in a Duke uniform.

But Jefferson committed a foul on Ferry away from the ball.  Ferry hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to break Georgetown’s 12-0 run.  Smith responded with a spin and a runner in the lane But Jefferson committed his 4th foul on Brickey with 2:29 to go.

Although Jefferson did have a good game off the bench, one wonders if the outcome may have been different had Mourning played more consistently down the stretch.  Brickey made both ends of his 1-and-1.  Ferry then blocked a Smith shot and Smith was called for a foul on the rebound scramble.  Duke’s senior John Smith made both ends of another 1-and-1 to put the Devils up 81-75.

Mourning did get a chance in the low post to cut the lead but rushed a hook shot and missed.  In John Thompson’s defense for his inconsistent playing time down the stretch, Mourning was a freshman.  But in criticism, he was ALONZO FREAKING MOURNING.

Winston kept Georgetown alive with a steal and banker but a Laettner free throw with 1:09 to go gave Duke an 82-77 lead.  Tillmon missed a three and Jefferson fouled out after fouling John Smith, who made 1-of-2 free throws.

Brickey committed a foul after John Turner rebounded a Jaren Jackson missed three-pointer.  But Turner was so tight that he airballed the second free throw (after missing the first).  A Jackson steal gave the Hoyas one more slight hope but Smith missed a three and Phil Henderson concluded the Duke victory at the foul line.

Duke was in their 3rd Final Four in 4 years.  But they weren’t done with the Big East as Seton Hall awaited them for the first Semifinal game.  Michigan and Illinois matched up as well in the real Big Ten Championship.

Duke starters (points scored)

Danny Ferry (21) – Small Forward

Robert Brickey (10) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (24) – Center

Quin Snyder (4) – Point Guard

Phil Henderson (23) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

John Smith (3)

Alaa Abdelnaby (0)

Greg Koubek (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Georgetown starters (points scored)

Jaren Jackson (2) – Small Forward

John Turner (4) – Power Forward

Alonzo Mourning (11) – Center

Charles Smith (21) – Point Guard

Dwayne Bryant (2) – Shooting Guard

Georgetown bench (points scored)

Mark Tillmon (16)

Bobby Winston (9)

Sam Jefferson (8)

Dikembe Mutombo (2)

Johnathan Edwards (2)

Georgetown Coach: John Thompson

April 1, 1989 – National Semifinal: (#3)Seton Hall Pirates 95, (#2)Duke Blue Devils 78

One would think knocking off Seton Hall would be easier after beating Big East champion Georgetown.  But the Pirates were coming of age and making their name in the NCAA tournament.  Seton Hall had lost three times to Syracuse (including the Big East Semifinals), twice to Pitt and once to Georgetown (and had gotten some attention by beating Georgetown in the Big East season opener).  Those were the only six losses of the season for Seton Hall.

They entered the tournament with a 26-6 record with a senior-laden team and a defensive attitude.  They defeated Missouri State and Evansville in the first two rounds by holding them scoreless over the last quarter of the 2nd half.  Then in the West Regionals, they took on tournament veterans Indiana and UNLV.  The Pirates gave each of them a lesson in their defense and the worst tournament loss to each respective program (beating Indiana 78-65 and UNLV 84-61).

The only starter who wasn’t a senior was actually their oldest player and was on a one-year visa from Australia.  24-year-old sharpshooter Andrew Gaze was their second leading scorer behind guard John Morton.  Big men Daryll Walker and Ramon Ramos averaged double figures and point guard Gerald Greene was at 9.1 points per game.  Seton Hall’s reserves of Frantz Volcy, Michael Cooper and Anthony Avent could play too, and they would get a chance to show Duke that very fact.

Both teams struggled off the gate.  It took almost two minutes for anybody to score (and the first point was a Phil Henderson free throw for Duke), but a big play happened when Henderson blocked a shot and he and Robert Brickey got out on the break.  Brickey, Duke’s athletic wing (and perhaps the only Blue Devil in 1989 with any athletic ability), went up for a layup and was undercut by Gerald Greene.

Brickey landed awkwardly, stayed in the game and hit his two free throws for a 5-0 Duke lead, but had to go out a minute later after Gaze drove by him and drew a foul.  Brickey ended up with a deep thigh bruise.  He tried to play in stretches of the 2nd half but had no ability to run and jump like he could.  This became a factor as Brickey was described as a mismatch for Andrew Gaze early in the game because he could explode past Gaze.

Gaze would now be matched with Phil Henderson and would shut down Duke’s 2nd leading scorer.  The Blue Devils’ top scorer had no problems early in the game as Danny Ferry was hitting pull-up jumpers from all angles against Daryll Walker.  Ferry scored 14 of Duke’s first 23 points and then when Christian Laettner crossed the ball to senior John Smith for a three-pointer, Duke led 26-8 with 8:46 to go in the half.

However, Seton Hall started to get going with their press.  Ramos hit a three-point play and Walker hit a pull-up in the lane after a steal from the press.  Duke maintained a 34-21 lead but eight of their 11 field goals were from Ferry.  Laettner committed his 3rd foul and Duke’s next three scorers after Ferry were down for three different reasons (Henderson was struggling from the field, Brickey was injured and Laettner in foul trouble).

Back-to-back threes from Greene and reserve Nick Katsikis cut Duke’s lead to 36-31.  Seton Hall could only cut it to 38-33 at the half but a disturbing trend was developing for Mike Krzyzewski, Ferry had 21 of those 38 points.

Duke took an early 45-35 lead in the 2nd half but John Morton got going with three quick field goals (his first field goals of the game).  Laettner and Alaa Abdelnaby (Duke’s big guys) picked up their 4th fouls and Duke’s lead was down to 49-48 when Walker hit on a three-point play.  Seton Hall then took their first lead when Greene hit Cooper for a layup on the break.

Duke scrambled to re-take a 55-52 advantage but Gaze tied it with a three from the wing.  Then freshman Anthony Avent got two layups and Cooper scored two field goals to put the Pirates up 63-57 with 10:19 to go.  Laettner kept the Blue Devils in it for a minute before fouling out on what looked like a clean block on a Greene drive.

Greene hit two free throws to make it 67-61 Seton Hall and then Gaze dropped a three from the top.  Quin Snyder hit a three for Duke on a Ferry kickout but Gaze responded with another triple.  Amazingly, Duke would only score one more field goal until the game was essentially over.

Seton Hall had concentrated on Ferry by sending double teams and Danny never did get any help as Laettner fouled out and Henderson finished 4-for-16.  Ferry also seemed tired as he extended a lot of energy in his 39 minutes on the floor.  It was a fabulous performance by the All-American in his last game in a Duke uniform (and probably upped his draft stock beyond what it should have been).

But Seton Hall controlled the stretch on both ends of the floor and won going away.  Amazingly, P.J. Carlesimo’s team was down by 18 at one point and won by 17.  Their performance got a standing ovation when all five starters were taken out with under a minute to go.  Everybody was talking about Seton Hall’s defense.  They would get one more chance to show it off.

Seton Hall starters (points scored)

Andrew Gaze (20) – Small Forward

Daryll Walker (19) – Power Forward

Ramon Ramos (9) – Center

Gerald Greene (17) – Point Guard

John Morton (13) – Shooting Guard

Seton Hall bench (points scored)

Nick Katsikis (3)

Michael Cooper (6)

Anthony Avent (6)

Frantz Volcy (2)

Pookie Wigington (0)

Trevor Crowley (0)

Khylem Long (0)

Seton Hall Coach: P.J. Carlesimo

Duke starters (points scored)

Danny Ferry (34) – Small Forward

Robert Brickey (2) – Power Forward

Christian Laettner (13) – Center

Quin Snyder (8) – Point Guard

Phil Henderson (13) – Shooting Guard

Duke bench (points scored)

John Smith (6)

Alaa Abdelnaby (0)

Greg Koubek (0)

Brian Davis (2)

Clay Buckley (0)

Crawford Palmer (0)

George Burgin (0)

Duke Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

carlesimo gaze

P.J. Carlesimo and his beard look on as Andrew Gaze drives for a layup against Duke *photos courtesy of nj.com and NCAA photos

April 1, 1989 – National Semifinal: (#3)Michigan Wolverines 83, (#1)Illinois Fighting Illini 81

In the initial analysis, it was one again one of those matchups in the Final Four between two conference rivals where one had swept the other during the regular season.  In 1981, Virginia had swept North Carolina during the season but UNC won the third matchup in the National Semifinals.  Then in 1985 and 1988 in the Championship Game, Villanova and Kansas upset Georgetown and Oklahoma, respectively, after they had lost twice to those opponents during the season.

In the 1989 Big Ten installment, Illinois had defeated Michigan handily twice during the season.  This included the final game of the year when the Illini traveled to Ann Arbor and won 89-73.  But, as was probably said of the other teams listed in the previous paragraph, this was a different Michigan team.  The final game of the season was the last that Bill Frieder coached the Wolverines.

Steve Fisher seemed to be getting a confidence out of players like Terry Mills and Rumeal Robinson that perhaps they didn’t have before.  Glen Rice was also on fire, shooting an incredible 61% on threes in the first four NCAA tournament games.  Fisher may have also instilled a confidence in talented but sometimes undisciplined reserve sophomore Sean Higgins.  Higgins rewarded Fisher by scoring 31 points in the Regional Final victory over Virginia.  He would continue the reward Fisher.

Illinois got some scares and had to make some comebacks in the first 4 tournament games, but the 3rd ranked team in the country had found their way to the Final Four.  Illinois, all year, had been playing with a small lineup where their tallest regular was 6’7″ senior Lowell Hamilton.  But they had made up for it with their athleticism on both ends of the floor and looked like the most talented team in the country.  They were undefeated when guard Kendall Gill played a game for them in 1989.

Like the first Semifinal, this game got off to a slow start.  But Illinois found their footing first led by senior Kenny Battle.  Battle scored 6 of Illinois’ first 9 points and then Gill got two field goals as the Illini took a 16-8 lead.  Illinois had a few chances to increase that advantage but let Michigan hang around.  The Wolverines got going as Sean Higgins nailed a three.  Then Rice hit a pull-up from the wing and later another in transition.  When Rumeal Robinson drove baseline for a banker, Michigan took a 19-18 lead.

The two teams threw mini-runs at each other for the rest of the half but couldn’t gain much of a lead.  Rice got going after a slow start and Nick Anderson did the same for Illinois.  The Illini took a 36-35 lead when Gill got a steal and fed Larry Smith for a breakaway.  But the teams exchanged baskets and leads for the next three possessions as Higgins found Mills for a slam, Anderson slammed back a Smith airball and Robinson drove right back through the Illinois press and scored with 44 seconds to go.

Illinois held for the last shot but couldn’t score and for the first time in their three matchups, the Wolverines had a lead over the Illini at halftime.  Albeit a slim 39-38 advantage.

Terry Mills opened the second half for Michigan with three buckets.  A Higgins putback pushed the lead to 51-44 and forced Illini coach Lou Henson to call a timeout at the 15:28 mark.  The big advantage the Wolverines had over the Illini was that the entire frontcourt of Rice, Higgins, Mills, Loy Vaught and Mark Hughes were bigger and taller than the biggest and tallest Illini.  Higgins’ putback was Michigan’s 12th offensive rebound in the first 25 minutes of action of this game.

But like they had all year, the Illini clawed back as their biggest and tallest player, Hamilton, hit his first two field goals.  Battle, later, tip-slammed a Hamilton miss and Anderson found Gill for a reverse layup.  The Michigan lead was now down to 53-52 at the 11:30 mark and Fisher had to use a timeout.

The rivals battled back and forth some more.  Michigan took a four-point lead but five straight points from Battle brought the Illini back as Mills picked up his 4th foul trying to stop Kenny on one play.  Later, a Higgins spin and slam over Hamilton (plus the foul) put the Wolverines ahead 69-67.  Hamilton picked up his 4th foul but Illinois battled back and eventually drew a 4th foul on Michigan’s catalyst Rumeal Robinson.

But Robinson stayed in the game and found Hughes for a slam to give Michigan a 76-74 lead.  Then Rumeal stole a cross court pass after unheralded Mike Griffin had put some great defensive pressure on Illini point man Steve Bardo.  Robinson found Rice for a slam to make the score 78-74 with under 3:00 to go.

Bardo missed a three after an Illini timeout but Battle got the offensive rebound and took it back behind the three-point line in the right corner.  Kenny then rose up and nailed a trey to cut the lead to one.  After a Michigan miss, Hamilton’s baseline jumper with under 2:00 to go gave Illinois a 79-78 advantage.

After a Michigan timeout and after Illinois cut off the Wolverines’ primary options, Mills found himself with the ball in the lane.  He took a shot and missed.  But senior Mark Hughes got the offensive rebound and put it back in while drawing Hamilton’s 5th foul.  The three-point play made it 81-79 Wolverines with 1:09 to go and punctuated Michigan’s advantage on the boards.  It wasn’t the last time that was punctuated.

After Henson called a timeout to set a play, the Illini patiently looked for Battle in the lane.  He finally flashed open from 10 feet away and got the bounce on a turnaround jumper with 34 seconds left to tie the game.  Michigan didn’t use a timeout.  Whatever play they called was cut off by the Illini defense, so Robinson had to cross it to Mills in the right corner beyond the three-point line.

With 5 seconds to go, Mills bombed away.  It missed.  On the other side of the basket, Higgins and Anderson were battling for position.  Higgins leaped and grabbed the ball.  He then put it back in to give Michigan a lead with 1 second left.  Anderson had a bigger body and was stronger than Higgins but Sean had more athleticism and used it.

The last play for the Illini was a long inbounds pass that was intercepted by Rice.  Once again, the team that had lost twice to a conference rival had one the 3rd matchup in the Final Four.  Michigan was now to take on Seton Hall in the National Championship Game in the battle of #3 seeds.

Michigan starters (points scored)

Glen Rice (28) – Small Forward

Loy Vaught (10) – Power Forward

Terry Mills (8) – Center

Rumeal Robinson (14) – Point Guard

Mike Griffin (0) – Shooting Guard

Michigan bench (points scored)

Mark Hughes (9)

Sean Higgins (14)

Demetrius Calip (0)

Michigan Coach: Steve Fisher

Illinois starters (points scored)

Nick Anderson (17) – Small Forward

Kenny Battle (29) – Power Forward

Lowell Hamilton (11) – Center

Steve Bardo (7) – Point Guard

Kendall Gill (11) – Shooting Guard

Illinois bench (points scored)

Larry Smith (6)

Marcus Liberty (0)

Ervin Small (0)

Illinois Coach: Lou Henson

sean higgins

Sean Higgins’ putback propelled Michigan past Illinois and into the National Championship Game (this picture wasn’t that play as Lowell Hamilton (#45) had fouled out by that point, but it was from that side of the court) *photo courtesy of NCAA photos

April 3, 1989 – National Championship Game: (#3)Michigan Wolverines 80, (#3)Seton Hall Pirates 79 (OT)

It was called the cinderella bowl.  The team with the 3rd best record in the Big Ten was taking on the team with the 3rd best record in the Big East.  But, then again, when do the best teams in the nation face off in a championship game?  The last time two #1 seeds made it was 1982.

Both teams had gotten off to slow starts in their semifinal games but each started quickly in the final game.  After winning the tip, it took Michigan 6 seconds to score.  Rumeal Robinson found Glen Rice for a wing jumper off a screen.  Seton Hall’s Gerald Greene responded with a three from the top.  Terry Mills and Loy Vaught hit field goals for Michigan.  John Morton hit a three to tie the game at 6.

Seton Hall’s great defense had gotten them this far but Michigan presented some problems that other teams couldn’t present.  They had athletic big men, a great point guard, and a shooter that ran off a million screens.  Robinson and Rice keyed a 6-0 run to give the Wolverines and interim coach Steve Fisher a 12-8 lead.  A putback by Vaught and a banker from the post by Robinson made the advantage 20-14.

But then Michigan went cold for a few minutes and Seton Hall came back as Daryll Walker got a layup and Morton hit two field goals.  Greene and Morton then hit threes to complete a 12-0 run and put the Pirates up 26-20.

Although the Pirate guards, Greene and Morton, got off to a great start, most of Seton Hall’s attack had come from the inside during the season.  Walker and Ramon Ramos did not get involved while Greene and Morton bombed threes, a sign of respect perhaps to Michigan’s inside power.  Also, Andrew Gaze could not get going from the outside.  It was thought that chasing Rice off many screens at the other end was sapping Gaze’s energy.  Andrew only had two free throws in the first 40 minutes of the game.

Michigan got back into the game as Robinson penetrated and either scored or found Glen Rice.  Rice’s first three and 13th point of the half put Michigan up 31-30.  The Wolverines kept that lead as Robinson closed the half with 4 free throws.  Robinson led the Wolverines with 14 points at the half as Michigan led 37-32.

The Maize and Blue continued their momentum to start the 2nd half.  They took a 43-35 lead when Rice hustled to save a ball from going out of bounds and got it to Robinson.  Rumeal fed the ball ahead to Terry Mills who found Vaught for a layup on a no-look pass.  The lead grew to 12 when Robinson found Rice for a three from the top.

Robinson then produced a highlight film play when he drove baseline and reverse slammed one to put Michigan up 51-39.  At this point, it was thought that Michigan’s power had finally proven to be the achilles heel for Seton Hall’s defense in the tournament.  But the Pirates kept grinding away and eventually Michigan went cold.

Gerald Greene then started pushing the ball and getting layups for himself or others.  Seton Hall steadily cut the lead down to 53-47 before Michigan’s super-sub Sean Higgins continued his hero role with a big three-pointer.  Another three from Rice made it 59-49 Michigan.

But then John Morton started the get aggressive as he pushed the ball right at the Michigan big men for the first time in the game.  Morton scored 6 points as Seton Hall went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 59-57.  But another three from Rice and a turnaround banker from Mills made it 66-61 Michigan with just under 3:00 left.

Michigan had a chance to increase that lead but key hustle kicked off a run for Seton Hall.  Walker blocked a shot and Morton was able to save the ball to Greene.  Greene then led Morton for a breakaway slam to cut the lead to three.  Gaze then deflected a pass to Greene, who pushed the ball and found Morton for a baseline jumper.  Morton then rebounded an ill-advised three-point attempt from Higgins and took it coast-to-coast for a double-pump layup to give Seton Hall their first lead of the 2nd half at 67-66 with under 2:00 to go.

Michigan called a timeout to settle themselves but Seton Hall forced a 5-second violation (not the inbounding kind).  The Pirates took time off the clock until Vaught committed a foul with 1:12 to go.  Seton Hall had been given credit all season about their free throw shooting prowess at the end of games.  But Daryll Walker only made 1-of-2.  It wouldn’t be the Pirates’ biggest miss of the game, but for the moment, they had a two-point lead instead of a three-point lead.

Robinson patiently waited for Rice to come off a screen to the top.  Rumeal hit him with a perfect pass and Glen rose up and nailed the trey for a 69-68 Michigan advantage with 1:00 to go.  As the building was going crazy, Morton rushed for one of the few times in the 2nd half and airballed an open shot near the lane.  He then fouled Higgins with 34 seconds to go.  Higgins made both ends of the 1-and-1 for a 71-68 Michigan lead.

Morton made up for his mistake though as he nailed a three from the top with 25 seconds to go to tie the game.  This was Morton’s 32nd point, 22 of them had come in the 2nd half.  Michigan called a timeout with 15 seconds to go and set a play for Rice to come off a screen for another jumper.  They got what they wanted but Rice was just short on an attempt from the top and, for the first time since 1963, the National Championship Game was going into overtime.

After each team, and the crowd, took a breath, both teams started quickly.  Robinson hit Rice for a jumper in the lane to give Glen 31 points.  Morton penetrated and found Gaze for a three from the wing.  This was Gaze’s first and only field goal of the game.  Higgins came back with a pull-up from the baseline.  Walker got a field goal on a Mills goaltend.  Higgins tied it at 76 with a free throw.

Then with 2:41 left, Greene found Morton for a high-arcing three from the top to give Seton Hall a 79-76 left.  For once, Michigan couldn’t respond with a basket and Seton Hall took some time off the clock.  But perhaps slowing the game down slowed their momentum.  Morton missed a runner in the lane at the end of the shot clock.  But, again, Michigan couldn’t cut into the lead as Rice and Higgins missed jumpers.  Greene rebounded and was fouled by Robinson with 1:17 to go.

It was mentioned during the game that Gerald Greene’s birthday was on this day.  This was one of two moments from the last minute and a half that perhaps haunted Greene, who has been in and out of trouble since for substance abuse and has lost touch with his Seton Hall teammates.  Greene bricked the front end of the 1-and-1 and Michigan still had a chance.

Mills hit a turnaround from the post with 57 seconds to go to cut the lead to one.  Seton Hall, again, ran down the shot clock.  Morton went 1-on-1 against Rice but Rice forced an airball and then rebounded with 10 seconds left.  Michigan didn’t call a timeout as Rice found Robinson, who pushed the ball.

The controversy ensued when Robinson got into the lane surrounded by three Seton Hall players.  Just before Robinson gave the ball up to senior Mark Hughes, a whistle blew.  A foul was called on Greene.  It was a little bump, but do you call it at the end of a championship game?  Seton Hall players say you don’t (although none of them blasted official John Clougherty after the game) while Michigan fans are probably relieved that their season didn’t come down to Mark Hughes attempting a wing jumper (he was a pretty decent shooter but, at least I, got the feeling the Robinson only gave him the ball because he was open).

Instead, Robinson got a 1-and-1 with 3 seconds left.  Although Robinson was statistically a 66% foul shooter, he made both ends for a Michigan lead.  After Seton Hall called a timeout, their only option was the long pass.  Ramos threw to it toward Walker and Greene.  Walker, the poorer shooter, ended up taking it and launched a three that hit nothing but backboard.

Michigan had improbably won their first ever basketball national championship.  Even more improbable was the fact that their coach had only taken over for the NCAA tournament and now was 6-0 for his career.  Steve Fisher would eventually get the interim tag removed and would coach the Wolverines until 1997 when the program ran into trouble.  As for the Wolverines players, 6 of their regular 8 would play in the NBA and their starting frontcourt of Rice, Vaught, and Mills would play more than 10 years.

For Seton Hall basketball, this was the high point (which perhaps makes this loss and the ending of the game tougher).  None of the 5 starters would be back for 1990.  Although P.J. Carlesimo would build a mini-power that would win two Big East championships and make a Regional Final in the early ’90’s, the Pirates have made three NCAA tournament appearances since Carlesimo left for the NBA in 1994.

Michigan starters (points scored)

Glen Rice (31) – Small Forward

Loy Vaught (8) – Power Forward

Terry Mills (8) – Center

Rumeal Robinson (21) – Point Guard

Mike Griffin (0) – Shooting Guard

Michigan bench (points scored)

Mark Hughes (2)

Sean Higgins (10)

Demetrius Calip (0)

Michigan Coach: Steve Fisher

Seton Hall starters (points scored)

Andrew Gaze (5) – Small Forward

Daryll Walker (13) – Power Forward

Ramon Ramos (9) – Center

Gerald Greene (13) – Point Guard

John Morton (35) – Shooting Guard

Seton Hall bench (points scored)

Anthony Avent (2)

Frantz Volcy (0)

Michael Cooper (0)

Pookie Wigington (2)

Seton Hall Coach: P.J. Carlesimo

1989-michigan-seton-hall-rumeal-robinson 1989michigan

Rumeal Robinson’s game-winning free throws gave Michigan and Glen Rice (celebrating up front with Robinson in the second picture) a National Championship in 1989 *photos courtesy of Sports Fan’s Journal and Old School T-blog

For the 1989 NBA draft, Louisville’s Pervis Ellison was taken #1 by the Sacramento Kings.  Duke’s Danny Ferry was taken #2 by the Los Angeles Clippers (Ferry never played for the Clippers).  Arizona’s Sean Elliott was taken #3 by the San Antonio Spurs and Michigan’s Glen Rice #4 by the Miami Heat.  North Carolina’s J.R. Reid was taken #5 by the Charlotte Hornets and Oklahoma’s Stacey King #6 by the Chicago Bulls.  Georgia Tech’s Tom Hammonds was taken #9 by the Washington Bullets and Illinois’ Nick Anderson #11 by the expansion Orlando Magic.

Oklahoma’s Mookie Blaylock was taken #12 by the New Jersey Nets.  Stanford’s Todd Lichti 15th by the Denver Nuggets.  Iowa’s B.J. Armstrong was taken 18th by the Bulls.  Louisville’s Kenny Payne 19th by the Philadelphia 76ers.  Iowa’s Roy Marble and Seton Hall’s John Morton were taken 23rd and 25th by Atlanta and Cleveland, respectively.  Arizona’s Anthony Cook and Illinois’ Kenny Battle were also drafted in the 1st round (by Phoenix and Detroit) and were later traded for each other.  Cook never ended up playing for Detroit.

Players taken in the 2nd round (the NBA draft was now only two rounds) were Syracuse’s Sherman Douglas (Miami Heat), Indiana’s Jay Edwards (Los Angeles Clippers), Alabama’s Michael Ansley (Orlando Magic), Iowa’s Ed Horton (Washington Bullets), NC State’s Chucky Brown (Cleveland Cavaliers), LSU’s Ricky Blanton (Phoenix Suns – last seen in 1988 College Basketball post) and South Alabama’s NCAA tournament hero Jeff Hodge (Dallas Mavericks – Hodge would never play an NBA game though).

In the 1st round of the 1989 draft, three guards last seen in the 1987 College Basketball post were taken.  UCLA’s Pooh Richardson was drafted 10th overall by the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves.  UTEP’s Tim Hardaway was taken 14th by the Golden State Warriors and Boston College’s Dana Barros was taken 16th by the Seattle Sonics.

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